Novel photoelectrocatalytic concepts for conversion of water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen to fuels and chemicals (PlusUltra)

The PlusUltra project aims at providing new concepts for photoelectrocatalaytic conversion of H2O, CO2, and N2 to fuels, useful chemicals, and fertilizers using renewable energy.

Photo: Niklas Lello


About the project

The biosphere converts sunlight to chemical energy by photosynthesis in plants, and mankind has learned to convert sunlight directly to electricity and electricity to light. Current nanoscience strives to convert sunlight and water/CO2 directly to fuels and in Graetzel cells to electricity via chemical redox cycles. In the future we need to make fuels and chemicals from CO2 and renewable energy and eventually to bind nitrogen and make fertilizers without natural gas and CO2 emissions. In PlusUltra we explore a number of novel concepts that address these challenges. We introduce the use of renewable and peak electricity in various forms, instead of or in addition to regular concentrated sunlight. We investigate novel photocatalysts based on recent advances in understanding defect chemistry, co-doping, nano- and heterostructures. For CO2 conversion we use parallel and sequential use of dual hotocatalysts for UV and visual solar light in the form of composites and nanoarrays. We introduce solid electrolytes and mixed ion-electron conducting membranes as photoelectrode substrates for direct separation of products, furthermore allowing elevated temperatures that promote kinetics and increase resistance towards photo-corrosion. Finally, the above allow us to introduce photolytic activation of nitrogen, driven by light and electricity and aided by novel photocatalysts. This subsequently reacts with supplied H2, O2, or C-containing molecules or their activated species. We hereby build a novel basis for using renewable energy to make fuels, carbon-containing chemicals, and fertilizers.


The primary objective of the project is to provide new concepts for photoelectrocatalaytic conversion of H2O, CO2, and N2 to fuels, useful chemicals, and fertilizers using renewable energy.

Secondary objectives:

  • Introduce use of light from renewable and peak electricity;
  • Improve state-of-the-art photocatalysts based on partners' excellence in photoelectrochemical, computational and defect chemistry and nanomaterials synthesis;
  • Develop novel wide band gap N-containing photocatalyst for activation of N2;
  • Introduce solid electrolytes and mixed conducting membranes to achieve product separation, stability, and elevated temperatures;
  • Combine peak renewable electricity, light sources, and the above concepts for novel routes of making useful molecules from H, O, and N;
  • Train post-doctoral candidates in cross-disciplinary photoelectrochemistry, nanotechnology, and materials science for renewable energy and sustainable production of essential chemicals.


The project is funded by Research Council of Norway, other support under ENERGIX program, project number 229705


The project lasts 3 years and collaborates with UiO, NTNU, and SINTEF.                    




Published Mar. 14, 2014 9:39 AM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2016 9:59 AM


Project leader:

Professor Truls Norby

+47 22840654

Administrative Officer:

Xuemei Cui

+47 22 84 06 64

Gaustadalleen 21
NO-0349 Oslo
Phone: +47 22840664