Photocatalytic Conversion of CO2 & Water into Hydrocarbon Fuels


Market need / Applications

The transition to a low carbon global economy is both a technical and an economic challenge.  It is unrealistic to abandon the enormous investment in fossil fuel energy systems, particularly coal and gas but at the same time, it is not viable to continue the use of these assets without drastically reducing their emissions. This innovation has the potential to be a key strategy in the transition.

Technology Description

We have developed a novel process of solar-induced, photocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) into useful and storeable hydrocarbons, methanol and methane (natural gas). We utilise novel catalysts made up of sub-nanometer metal particles that are incorporated into an inert and abundant photo-active substrate. The process combines the ideal virtues of carbon neutral solar energy harvesting and storage, as well as the reduction of atmospheric CO2.

Our approach takes advantage of our expertise in developing novel catalysts based on sub-nanometer scale metal catalysts to react CO2 with H2O to produce methanol and methane. This photocatalytic process can be considered as a type of "artificial photosynthesis" that directly generates hydrocarbons. However, our photocatalytic process is simplified to a few chemical components that do not depend upon fragile biological structures (e.g. algae). Such a purely chemical approach has many advantages such as vastly reduced material and space, is relatively simple to scale like any chemical plant and can be constructed anywhere with a solar source, all leading to significant advantages over similar solar conversion methods.

IP Position

A provisional patent application was filed in December 2015. No other formal intellectual property has been registered by the group in relation to this work.

Partnering Opportunities

Due to the potential implications of this research, an aggressive approach to seeking funding and progressing this work is being undertaken, supported by the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources (IMER) and in-kind from Jeanes Holland and Associates. We are in discussions with the Australian Government and exploring a number of sources across Science/Energy/Environment as well as support from Education for the balance of funding required.


View briefing document here.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Michael Muthig
Commercial Manager
The University of Adelaide
Greg Metha
Renewable Energy