UCL Department of Chemical Engineering


Capturing Sunlight to Power a Circular Economy using Wireless Thin Film Technologies

30 March 2022, 1:05 pm–2:55 pm

Professor Erwin Reisner

We warmly invite you to our Departmental Seminar Series, with guest speaker Professor Erwin Reisner. The first hour will focus on the talk, with the second hour dedicated to a networking session. Please note the timings 13:05-14:55 relate to London UK time zone (GMT).

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Dr Yang Lan and Dr Ryan Wang – UCL Chemical Engineering

Seminar abstract:

Thin film devices powered by sunlight can produce sustainable energy carriers and chemicals and thereby mimic the shape and function of plant leaves. This presentation will give an overview of our recent progress to construct prototype devices for the conversion of water, carbon dioxide and solid waste streams into fuels and chemicals. Specifically, a standalone ‘photoelectrochemical leaf’ based on an integrated lead halide perovskite tandem solar cell has been built for the solar CO2 reduction to produce syngas (Andrei et al., Nature Materials, 2020, 19, 189–194). Syngas is an energy-rich gas mixture containing CO and H2 and currently produced from fossil fuels and the ‘green’ production of syngas may enable the synthesis of renewable liquid oxygenates and hydrocarbon fuels. The tandem architecture also allows for the integration of biocatalysts and the selective and bias-free conversion of CO2-to-formate has been demonstrated using enzymes (Moore et al., Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2021, 60, 26303-26307). An alternative solar carbon capture and utilisation technology is based on co-deposited semiconductor powders on a conducting substrate. Modification of these immobilised powders with a molecular catalyst gives a photocatalyst sheet that can cleanly produce formic acid from aqueous CO2 (Wang et al., Nature Energy, 2020, 5, 703–710). The deposition of a single semiconductor material on glass gives panels for the sunlight-powered conversion plastic and biomass waste into H2 and organic products, thereby allowing for simultaneous waste remediation and fuel production (Uekert et al., Nature Sustain., 2021, 4, 383–391). The concept and prospect behind these integrated systems for solar energy conversion and their relevance to secure and harness sustainable energy supplies in a fossil-fuel free economy will be discussed.

this seminar will be held on Zoom. Click 'book now' to join the event. 

About the Speaker

Prof. Erwin Reisner

at Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge

Professor Erwin Reisner received his education and professional training at the University of Vienna (PhD in 2005 and Habilitation in 2010), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (postdoc from 2005-2007) and the University of Oxford (postdoc from 2008-2009). After a brief stint as an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellow at The University of Manchester, he joined the University of Cambridge as a University Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and as a Fellow of St. John’s College in 2010. He was appointed to Reader in 2015 and to his current position of Professor of Energy and Sustainability in 2017.  He has been directing the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Sustainable SynGas Chemistry from 2012-2019 and the UK Solar Fuels Network, which coordinates the national activities in artificial photosynthesis, from 2017-2021. He currently holds an ERC Consolidator and Proof-of-concept Grant on enzyme-hybrid materials for solar fuel synthesis and is the academic lead of the Cambridge Circular Plastics Centre (CirPlas). He is also a co-director of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Integrated Functional Nano (nanoCDT) in Cambridge and a member of the European research consortia solar2chem and Sofia. His laboratory explores the interface of chemical biology, synthetic chemistry, materials science, and engineering relevant to the development of solar-driven processes for the sustainable synthesis of fuels and chemicals from waste streams such as lignocellulosic biomass and plastics, water and components in air such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

More about Prof. Erwin Reisner