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Artificial Photosynthesis Project

Project overview

Project period: FY2014 to FY2021, FY2021 budget: JPY 1.57 billion
PL: SETOYAMA Toru (Executive Fellow, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation/Director, Setoyama Laboratory)

Japan's chemical industry is one of its biggest, with total shipments valued at around 44-trillion yen with approximately 880,000 employees as of FY2015. The industry manufactures many products that boast high technological value and industrial competitiveness. At the same time, the industry is responsible for consuming a considerable amount of naphtha and other fossil resources as raw materials for its products and the impact on global warming of the industry's CO2 emissions are a concern. In addition, there are constant risks that imported oil— which Japan depends upon—will increase in price and may become depleted.

The goal of this project is to partially imitate the plant photosynthesis process—which is used to produce key chemicals, including plastic raw materials from CO2 and hydrogen from sunlight and water (solar-hydrogen)—in order to realize the practical application of an innovative chemical manufacturing process that does not rely on fossil resources. This project is positioned as a Future Pioneering Project aimed at the creation of innovation to serve as a catalyst for the future growth of Japan's chemical industry. More specifically, this project involves: (1) the development of a photocatalyst offering high energy conversion efficiency to produce hydrogen from water by using solar energy and the development of advanced separation membranes to separate solar hydrogen and oxygen, and (2) the development of a high-efficiency synthetic catalyst to produce plastic raw materials and other core chemical products from CO2. The effective utilization of sunlight—a form of renewable energy—and the CO2 emitted by factories is expected to lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions and contribute to the achievement of a low-carbon society.

■ Current research and development themes
  • Research and development theme (1): Development of technology for solar hydrogen and other production processes
  • Research and development theme (2): Development of carbon dioxide recycling process technology
  • Overview of result applications (1) Development of technology for solar hydrogen and other production processes Solar energy Photosynthesis Power plants, factories Separation membrane Plastic and other raw materials (2) Development of carbon dioxide recycling process technology Synthetic catalyst C2-C4 olefins C2 or C3 or C4 olefin production Application examples
    Project diagram

Basic information

Technical field
  • Materials and components
Project code P14002
Department in charge
  • Materials Technology and Nanotechnology Department (TEL: 044-520-5220)

Last Updated : April 26, 2022