The Project

Project summary

In October 2023, the EU project „SUNGATE“ commenced under the coordination of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and in collaboration with 11 partners from research and industry. SUNGATE aims to engineer a novel, circular, sustainable and cost-efficient bio-hybrid technology to achieve the highly-efficient scalable production of solar fuels in systems, ranging from portable temporary installations to larger-scale solutions for decentralised households and industry.

Amidst the energy transition and ongoing climate change, solar fuels are a sustainable solution for environmental-friendly energy supply for mobility, households and industry, for instance. A promising approach for solar fuel production is artificial photosynthesis (AP) – however, current systems are inefficient, expensive and unsuitable for industrial deployment. The EU project „SUNGATE“, aims to overcome these limitations by combining the principles of AP with photoelectrocatalysis and flow microreactor technology. As a result, the project will bring about the first modular full-cell continuous flow microreactor technology that requires sunlight as its only energy source as well as water and CO2 as simple, abundant feedstocks for conversion into solar fuels such as methanol and formate.

In contrast to state-of-the-art photoelectrochemical (PEC) technologies, SUNGATE will not use toxic or critical raw materials, and will combine efficient water oxidation catalysts with novel biohybrid CO2 reducing catalysts onto nanostructured electrodes to radically improve the efficiency of conversion. The unique modular and scalable design of SUNGATE technology will allow a flexible defossilised production of solar fuels for diverse applications ranging from decentralised energy infrastructure to closed carbon cycles for sectors that emit large amounts of CO2 (e.g. cement, steel and chemical industry).

SUNGATE aims to achieve proof of concept at TRL 5. This would result in a technology breakthrough that has the potential to secure the future global energy supply at an affordable cost and meets the central goal of the European Green Deal and the European Climate Law to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The project’s interdisciplinary consortium of 12 academic, RTO and industry partners from six EU countries and Turkey will engage in the full validation of the technology, including life cycle assessment, as well as effective dissemination and knowledge transfer to accelerate industrial take up. SUNGATE (HE 101122061) received a total budget of about 4.9 million euros from the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme under the Grant Agreement 101122061and will run until September 30, 2027.

Under the coordination of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, the project has the collaboration of 11 partners from research and industry: Fraunhofer Institute for Microengineering and Microsystems IMM (Germany), Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC (Germany), University of Warsaw (Poland), Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (Spain), University of Stuttgart (Germany), Ulm University (Germany), Ghent University, (Belgium), Tarsus University, (Turkey), 2.-0 LCA consultants, (Denmark), Danish Board of Technology, (Denmark) and Chemtrix BV, (Netherlands).

Specific objectives

1: Development of the design and specifications of a scalable full-cell PEC continuous flow reactor technology meeting circularity-by-design principles, EU regulations and end-user requirements

2: Development of a novel photoanodic half-cell comprising light-absorbing materials and water oxidation catalysts for efficient light harvesting and conversion to electrochemical potential

3: Development of a novel biobased (biohybrid) photocathodic half-cell with a high efficiency of light conversion to reducing power for improved CO2 fixation and minimal downstream processing 

4: Assembly and validation of novel PEC continuous flow microreactors for solar fuel production with at least 24-fold higher efficiency than NP

5: Showcase SUNGATE technology in order to advance European scientific foundations in AP, increase competitiveness, and ensure the penetration of AP technologies into future energy systems 

Project structure and timelines

WP1: Technical specifications and design validation

WP2: Anodic half-cell

WP3: Cathodic half-cell

WP4: Full-cell assembly and system integration

WP5: Demonstration of novel PEC continuous flow microreactors

WP6: Dissemination, exploitation and communication 

WP7: Project and innovation management