Modern civilization thrives on a constant flow of energy and material goods, obtained from natural resources such as fossil fuels, minerals and biomass. This leads to the production of large amounts of waste, which becomes difficult to handle. Such a linear economic system is not sustainable having negative effects for our planet, an idea exemplified by the uncontrolled release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, altering climate stability with vast environmental, societal and economic consequences.
The SUNRISE technological roadmap is the result of the integrated knowledge of a broad group of scientists across Europe and a key step to engage the whole community towards building a climate neutral EU. Four ICIQ Group Leaders – Antoni Llobet, Julio Lloret-Fillol, Emilio Palomares and Elisabet Romero – have joined the SUNRISE consortium, formed by top scientists who combine fundamental, applied and industrial research approaches.
This roadmapping process started in May 2019 based on the development of a consolidated SUNRISE vision of a circular solar-driven economy for 2050. It spread in June at the SUNRISE Stakeholder Workshop and has been later tackled by a dedicated working group within the SUNRISE consortium.
With the release of this key outcome, SUNRISE aims at promoting a large-scale research initiative to provide short and long-term solutions to enable the transition to a circular economy powered by sunlight through the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals.
“SUNRISE’s main objective is to facilitate a carbon-neutral society by using abundantly available molecules – carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen – to replace fossil-based raw materials for the production of a broad range of chemicals and fuels. This way, our initiative targets a sustainable CO2 cycle, where the concentration in the atmosphere is decreased and then maintained at a level compatible with climate stability, committing to the sustainable use of natural resources and land,” explains Carina Faber, leader of SUNRISE roadmapping team.
SUNRISE will address the scientific, technological and societal challenges to accomplish the recycling of CO2 into a variety of products, the combination of nitrogen with hydrogen to produce ammonia for fertilizers and, more generally, the direct solar-powered production of fuels and platform chemicals.
High efficiency will be necessary to make the transition economically viable and has to come out of an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers, handing it over to civil authorities and citizens.