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Environmentally friendly strategies for reducing carbon dioxide in value-added products through bioelectrochemical and photoelectrochemical pathways

Grant number: 24/00725-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate (Direct)
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2024
Effective date (End): January 31, 2029
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Chemistry
Principal Investigator:Valeria Reginatto Spiller
Grantee:Ana Clara Bonizol Zani
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Ribeirão Preto , SP, Brazil


Global efforts to curb global warming have intensified in recent decades as the international community acknowledges climate change and the urgent need for mitigating actions. An example of this is the plan to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other harmful gases, developed during the United Nations conference held in 2015 in Paris. CO2 is notably the primary greenhouse gas, and its concentration has increased by 400% since 1950. Therefore, the development of new environmentally friendly methodologies aiming to use CO2 for conversion into value-added products is essential for sustainable development. CO2 is characterized by being a highly inert and stable molecule, making it essential to overcome these energy barriers. In this regard, the present project proposes the use of bioelectrochemical and photoelectrochemical approaches for the transformation of CO2 into acetate and methanol, products with wide industrial applications. The first step involves the use of a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) for the conversion of CO2 into acetate. MECs are promising alternatives for treating this gas since, instead of traditional catalysis, they employ mild temperature and pressure conditions. In these devices, microorganisms, in mixed or pure cultures, are used as biocatalysts in the cathodic chamber, and low potentials are applied to obtain multicarbon compounds. The second proposed strategy is the photoelectrochemical reduction of CO2 to obtain methanol. Photocatalysts can be inorganic, based on titanium dioxide (TiO2) with chemical modifications for low potential applications. Among these modifications, the present project suggests the use of copper-based structures - prioritizing the production of methanol - anchored on a prodigiosin film that acts as a photosensitizer. Prodigiosin, a pigment produced by some strains of Serratia sp., has demonstrated the ability to transfer its excited electrons to the conduction band of metals.Therefore, the present project aims to develop innovative and environmentally friendly methodologies with the goal of treating CO2 and simultaneously obtaining value-added compounds. For this purpose, the project relies on a promising interface between biochemistry and electrochemistry, aiming not only to mitigate environmental impacts but also to utilize gaseous waste as valuable resources.

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