Hydrogen, electrification and circularity – a plasma chemistry perspective

A presentation by Prof. Dr. Ir. Gerard van Rooij, Head Circular Engineering Department, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Maastricht University

Sustainable energy generation by means of wind or from solar radiation through photovoltaics or concentrated solar power will continue to increase its share of the energy mix. Intermittency due to e.g. day/night cycle, regional variation in availability, and penetration of sustainable energy into sectors other than electricity such as the chemical industry necessitates means of storage, transport and energy conversion on a large scale.

A promising option is the synthesis of hydrogen, chemicals and artificial fuels using sustainable energy. A truly circular economy requires that the raw materials are the thermodynamically most stable ones: H2O as usual suspect, as well as CO2 and N2, and probably even CH4. In this contribution it will be highlighted how plasma chemistry can potentially combine compatibility with e.g. intermittency and localized production to activate these molecules with maximum energy efficiency. It will be shown how high power density creates fast dynamics, process intensification, and new opportunities towards selectivity. Examples will be discussed that connect to carbon capture and utilization, to nitrogen fixation, and to carbon circularity.


Question 1: What drives you?
Concerns about climate change and the societal debate around it.

Question 2: Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
Presentation contains holistic view on sector integration, new example of route to carbon circularity, and new technology placed in the context of today’s process industry.

Question 3: What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
Short run: those offering true CO2 reduction in combination with economic viability. Energy efficiency is key to success in this respect, and will continue to be also in the long run.

Question 4: What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
Short term implementation of new technologies will also teach society which political framework is required to make the energy transition a success in the long run.

Question 5: What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
Diversity in stakeholders and uncertainty of society willing to pay a price for the transition on the short term (ignoring that there is a price to be paid in the long run).

About Gerard van Rooij
Gerard van Rooij is full professor in plasma chemistry at Maastricht University and Eindhoven University of Technology, and part-time connected to DIFFER. After plasma chemistry R&D in the context of nuclear fusion, he initiated research on plasma activation of chemical reactions to aid storage of sustainable energy in chemical potential energy. From his role at Maastricht, he participates in various program lines connected to the Brightsite consortium that aims at providing climate neutral solutions to the chemical industry.

Gerard van Rooijwill be speaking at the 2021 edition of the conference.

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