The Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (DFG) and the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) published a White Paper on their vision for sustainable chemistry production via solar-driven chemistry. Mimicking nature, the paper favors the direct use of solar energy for production of fuels, chemicals, and materials. In the opinion of the authors, it is possible and necessary to drive chemical reactions by the energy of the sun.
For this visionary concept, many scientific and technical problems still have to be solved. These include the replacement of critical elements with less expensive and more abundant ones, the development of industrially feasible recovery methods for less abundant elements, and the development of electro- and photocatalysts, electrodes for ammonia production, and catalysts for H2O2 synthesis driven by renewables. There is also a need for cheaper, more selective, and more stable (photo)catalysts for CO2 reduction, and for cheaper solutions to concentrate and use CO2 from the atmosphere, as well as to better understand natural and artificial photosynthesis (e.g., C–C bond formation, multiple electron/proton transfer).
The White Paper sees solar-driven chemistry as a radical paradigm shift in chemical production which will have a high impact on the competitiveness and sustainability of the European industrial system. It can create knowledge-driven competitiveness while preserving jobs and the environment in Europe.
To reach these ambitious goals, It will take several decades of research. The paper emphasizes that short-term and intermediate results will already bring huge benefits. Nevertheless, a strong, broad, and inclusive action driven by chemists is needed, as well as the strong, concerted, and unconventional support of basic and applied research.