REFINE - From solar energy to fuel: A holistic artificial photosynthesis platform for the production of viable solar fuels

  A diagram illustrating the influencing factors on the solar fuels project

Climate change and the associated serious consequences for all areas of life require new solutions, particularly in the decarbonization of the energy industry and alternative fuels in the mobility sector. One approach to combat these issues is the usage of artificial photosynthesis in order to store energy in chemical bonds.

The REFINE project aims to use this technology to produce so called “solar fuels”. To achieve this, it brings together experts from natural sciences, engineering, and social sciences, providing a ground-breaking approach under a Responsible Research and Innovation framework. Since the goal is a large-scale application of such systems, an early evaluation of social and market viability is paramount.

Aims of REFINE:

  1. achieve a sustainable and efficient production platform for solar-derived chemicals with minimised downstream separation needs,
  2. create solar fuel policies and study societal acceptance and risk perceptions of the REFINE approach,
  3. converge the necessary disciplines to solve a multifaceted problem,
  4. provide multi-levelled understanding: from fundamental to applied sciences to deliver a breakthrough system,
  5. strengthen Europe’s energy independence,
  6. perform multi-levelled lifecycle and technoeconomic analyses and modelling of the proposed system to ensure integration with the industrial and societal value chain.

The RWTH chair of communication science contributes to this project by investigating societal perceptions and acceptance, form information- and communication needs as well as policy strategies. Combining qualitative and quantitative social science methods, it will be possible to explore, assess and model the acceptance of REFINE and the biofuels derived from it.