Photocatalytic Production of Syngas from Biomass

Accounts of chemical research(2023)

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As a renewable solar energy and carbon carrier, biomass exploration has received global attention. Photocatalytic valorization of biomass into fuels and chemicals is a promising and sustainable method for future chemical production. Photocatalysis has the potential to accomplish reactions under ambient conditions due to the unique reaction mechanisms involving photoinduced charge carriers and has recently been recognized as an efficient and feasible technology for biomass conversion. Biomass is widely used as sacrificial agent to scavenge holes in photocatalytic hydrogen evolution, and the carbon is eventually degraded to CO2 with a minor amount of CO. The generation of CO instead of CO2 is more economical and promising but also a challenge under photoreforming conditions.This is a new research direction, while until now there has still been the lack of a comprehensive review article to summarize and provide prospects for this topic. This Account will highlight our contributions in the research direction of the photocatalytic reforming of biomass into syngas (CO + H2). In 2020, we first reported the photocatalytic conversion of biopolyols and sugars into syngas by employing a defect-rich Cu-TiO2 nanorod photocatalyst and found that formic acid is a key intermediate to CO. Further study revealed that a facet-dependent electron-trapping state on anatase TiO2 will affect the photocatalytic dehydration activity for formic acid intermediates by regulating the electron transfer process during the reaction, and the selective generation of FA or CO from photocatalytic biomass reforming was achieved via exposing the (100) or (101) facets, respectively. Visible light-driven syngas generation was further achieved over a CdS-based photocatalyst. Sulfate modification of CdS ([SO4]/CdS) was constructed as the proton acceptor, thus efficiently facilitating the proton-coupled electron transfer process. Besides, we put forward an oxygen controlled strategy to increase the CO generation rate without a significant decrease in CO selectivity via controlling the O2/ substrate ratio. Based on this system, a Z-scheme CdS@g-C3N4 core-shell structure and CdO-CdS semicoherent interface were created to facilitate charge transfer and enhance the O2 activation, thus increasing the CO generation rate. Moreover, we also developed a photoelectrochemical approach to separately produce CO and H2 from biomass. Nitrogen doping of a hexagonal WO3 nanowire array was used to produce the photoanode. The built-in electric field generated via nitrogen doping promoted charge transfer, hence improving the efficiency of PEC reforming of biopolyols and sugars. This Account will systematically analyze the challenges in this research direction, the reaction route in the photocatalytic biomass reforming, and the factors affecting CO selectivity and give insight into the design of efficient photocatalytic systems.
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