The University of the Basque Country leads a European project to develop a revolutionary chemical technology

The CATART project led by the SUPREN (SUstainable PRocess ENgineering) research group in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering – Bilbao (UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Community, Spain) will be developing a revolutionary technology to produce chemicals by combining expertise in photonics, materials science, catalysis, chemical engineering and artificial intelligence.

Designing a technology by bringing together the fields of materials science, artificial intelligence and chemical reactions to produce biofuel precursors from renewable molecules, such as water and carbon dioxide, is the aim of the European CATART project, which has received a 3.2 million-euro grant from the European Union’s HORIZON-EIC-2021-PATHFINDEROPEN-01 programme.

More specifically, “the project aims to develop a technology that allows sunlight to be collected as a source of renewable energy and from there to try to convert water or carbon dioxide molecules to produce hydrogen or carbon monoxide, respectively. Both products have a range of applications in the chemical industry and hydrogen can be used as a green fuel”, explained Iker Aguirrezabal-Telleria, project leader and member of the SUPREN research group.

So, “the goal is to design a versatile technology or prototype that can be operated by means of sunlight both here and elsewhere on the planet, and at the same time be able to adapt to the weather conditions of each location, so that the prototype learns to produce as much hydrogen and carbon monoxide as possible. The combination of expertise in photonics, materials science, catalysis, chemical engineering and artificial intelligence (through machine learning) will enable an autonomous technology capable of maximising productivity to be developed”, added Aguirrezabal.

Moreover, as the researcher pointed out, “what is innovative about this technology lies in the design of a set of materials capable of producing the chemical reaction while at the same time separating the product. Right now, there are no viable materials that can perform reactions and separations of this type simultaneously. Nor are there technologies or equipment that can integrate all three components: material design, light absorption and optimisation through artificial intelligence. The technology envisaged as a result of this project will therefore revolutionise the way certain chemicals are produced”.

The research team in the European CATART project comprises eight partners from five European countries: five universities, one research centre, one SME and one industrial partner. The SUPREN-SUstainable PRocess ENgineering Group in the Department of Chemical and Environment Engineering at the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Engineering -Bilbao is leading the project together with the University of Pavia (Italy), the University of Glasgow (UK), the University of Eindhoven (Netherlands) and the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands); the Max Planck Institute in Berlin (Germany); Chemify, the start-up company associated with the University of Glasgow that works on robotics and artificial intelligence; and the British company Johnson Matthey, which works mainly on the design and production of catalysts.

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