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Solar fuel generation: From laboratory demonstrations to technology development

Sophia Haussener is Assistant Professor heading the Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Her current research is focused on providing design guidelines for thermal, thermochemical, and photoelectrochemical energy conversion reactors through multi-physics modeling.


Solar radiation is the most abundant energy source available but it is distributed and intermittent, thereby necessitating its storage via conversion to a fuel (e.g. hydrogen or carbohydrates) for practical use. Photoelectrochemical (PEC) approaches use the photon energy for charge generation to drive electrochemical reactions. They provide viable routes for the direct synthesis of solar fuels. I will describe our journey for the successful demonstration of a solar fuel generation plant, starting from a conceptual idea of a PEC device all the way to design, fabrication, demonstration and scaling. We started the investigation by identifying cost competitive PEC devices, which we identified by implementing a rigorous quasi-transient techno-economic-environmental model1. The model provided guidance on conceptual design pathways, material choices, and operating approaches. I then review the development of our PEC model framework or virtual prototype2, allowing for feasibility and design studies. I then show how we used this model to design and implement a PEC device with a solar-to-fuel efficiency of 17%3 at unprecedented power and current densities. Finally, I discuss ongoing scaling approaches by our lab for the design, implementation, and testing of these devices, in order to bridge the gap between research and practical application.



1. M. Dumortier, S. Tembhurne, S. Haussener, Energy Environ. Sci., 8:3614–3628, 2015.

2. S. Tembhurne, S. Haussener, Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 163:H1008-H1018, 2016.

3. S. Tembhurne, F. Nandjou, S. Haussener, Nature Energy, accepted, 2019.



Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering, EPFL, Station 9, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

Research tracks

Chemical Conversion

More information
Sophia Haussener's homepage

Keynote speaker

Tuesday 10 December

14:05 - 14:35h

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CHAINS 2019 is organised by NWO Domain Science with the support of partners Holland Chemistry and KNCV