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Plasmas to recycle CO2

The project “PIONEER,” the aim of which is to train experts in CO2 recycling by plasma, won European financing from the 2018-2020 “Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions” program. Olivier Guaitella, CNRS researcher in the Laboratory of Plasma Physics will be PIONEER’s scientific coordinator.

How to recycle CO2 is one of the crucial questions in the fight against climate change. The use of cold plasmas to convert CO2 is a promising field of research shared by several members of Labex Plas@Par which brings together scientists and laboratories, including the Laboratory of Plasma Physics (LPP, a joint research unit of CNRS, École Polytechnique, Sorbonne University, Université Paris-Sud and Observatoire de Paris).

This research requires multidisciplinary expertise for which there was no specific educational program until now. To remedy this situation, Olivier Guaitella, researcher at LPP, Maria Elena Galvez, lecturer at Sorbonne University, and Patrick Da Costa, Professor at Sorbonne University created project PIONEER aimed at educating a new generation of experts in this field. PIONEER won the ITN-EJD call for projects of the 2018-2020 “Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions” program that supports innovative training networks for researchers able to face current and future challenges and convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for economic and social benefit.

PIONEER brings together 15 partner universities and 9 industrial partners in the 9 countries financing 15 bipartite thesis scholarships that include a common program of education given by seven of the partner universities.

Convert CO2 using cold plasmas

A cold plasma, a disorderly mix of ions and electrons that emits light, can modify the chemistry of a fluid by generating reactive species. This technology has applications in many fields that are being explored in the LPP, including the biology of seed germination, cancer treatment (skin, mouth), and indoor air treatment.

Studies that Olivier Guaitella conducted in the framework of the ANR Young Researcher program in 2016 demonstrated that plasmas also have great potential for CO2 recycling. In fact, they make it possible to go beyond the efficiency limits set by the laws of classical thermodynamics to dissociate CO2.

However, the products of this dissociation (CO and O) tend to recombine into CO2, which makes it necessary to use an intermediary material, a catalyst so that they can be combined with other elements to yield less toxic molecules. Whereas initial research studies have used the classic catalysts of chemistry, a whole field of exploration remains open to find specific catalysts that would couple with plasmas. PIONEER’s ambition is to train experts proficient simultaneously in plasma physics, catalysis and systems engineering.