Energy decarbonization: a story inspired by nature

Chemical Engineering Graduate Seminar


After 4500 million years running an optimization algorithm, nature chose to produce hydrogen from the water splitting – photosynthesis – but not to store or use it as such; nature chose to produce and transform hydrogen in biomolecules for energy and feedstock. Hydrogen, at room conditions, is mostly useless and must be compressed or liquefied to originate a vector with enough volumetric energy density for being transported and stored. At 700 bar, hydrogen displays an energy density of 1.3 kWh L-1, and the corresponding compression process uses the equivalent of 13 % of the compressed hydrogen energy; liquefied hydrogen displays an energy density of 2.3 kWh L-1, and the corresponding liquefaction process uses the equivalent of 36 % of the liquefied hydrogen energy. On the other hand, methanol produced from the CO2 hydrogenation keeps 93 % of the energy of the reacting hydrogen and displays an energy density of 5.0 kWh L-1 (ca. 6.3 kWh kg-1). Despite all EU programs on hydrogen as an energy vector, despite all the research and political speeches, hydrogen is not a suitable energy vector; everyone knows, but nobody says it because all benefit from this deception.

This talk discloses the critical technologies that make methanol and dimethyl ether (DME) promising energy vectors for the swift decarbonization of the energy sector and beyond. It is proposed a bio-inspired energy cycle for methanol and DME, involving the capture, transport, and storage of liquid CO2 (liquefaction requires ca. 2.3 % of the methanol energy); a profitable low-cost pathway for CO2 capturing and purification directly from air (DAC) is presented. Finally, low-temperature catalytic methane-splitting (also known as methane decomposition of cracking) is presented as a swift and sustainable route for producing very low-cost methanol and DME from NG and biogas, and a profitable way for removing CO2 from the atmosphere when biogas is used.


The research leading to this work has received funding from Projects: (i) PRR H2Driven, funded by Mobilizing Agendas for Business Innovation under the Notices 01/C-05-i01/2021 of July 1st, 2021 and 02/C-05-i01/2022 of February 3rd, 2022, which are framed in Portaria 43-A/2022, January 19th, and in the Portuguese Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR); ii) EU projects 112CO2 (Grant agreement ID: 952219); and (ii) LA/P/0045/2020 (ALiCE), UIDB/00511/2020 and UIDP/00511/2020 (LEPABE), funded by national funds through the FCT/MCTES (PIDDAC).



Professor Adélio Mendes (born 1964) received his PhD degree from the University of Porto in 1993. Currently is full professor at the Chemical Engineering Department of the Faculty of Engineering – University of Porto.

Coordinates a large research team with research interests mainly in photovoltaic cells (DSSC and PSC), photoelectrochemical cells, electroreduction of CO2, batteries (RFB and SIB), fuel cells and electrolysis, chemical membrane reactors, methane splitting, green methanol, adsorption-based separation processes and carbon molecular sieve membranes.

Professor Mendes authored or co-authored more than 450 articles in peer-reviewed international journals, filled more than 35 families of patents, and is the author of a textbook; he was the recipient of an Advanced Research Grant from the ERC on dye-sensitized solar cells for building integrated of ca. 2 MEuros, in 2013, led/leads several EU projects, namely two from the Future and Emerging Technologies program (FET); leads a large project on Green-Methanol of ca. 7 M€. Eight start-up companies were created from his research activities and co-owned by former or present researchers from his research team.

Prof. Mendes’ awards include Air Products Faculty Excellence 2011 Award (USA), Solvay & Hovione Innovation Challenge 2011, Ramos Catarino Innovation Award 2011-2012, ACP Diogo Vasconcelos Applied Research Award 2011, Municipal Medal of Merit by the City of Porto Merit – Gold Degree in 2015, Coimbra University Prize of 2016, Scientific Excellence Award by FEUP, Technology Innovation Award 2017 by the University of Porto and Technological Innovation award from the University of Porto (2017) and The PSE Model-Based Innovation Prize 2019 (com Catarina G. Braz, Henrique A. Matos, Adélio Mendes, Jorge Rocha, Ricardo Alvim). Presently, he is the Coordinator of CEner-FEUP, the Competence Center for Energy of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto and he was President of VG-CoLAB Energy Storage.


SCOPUS: Author ID 7102443929


Professor Adélio Mendes

Professor, Chemical Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto

Event Quick Information

07 Nov, 2023
11:45 AM - 12:45 PM
KAUST, Bldg. 9, Level 2, Lecture Hall 1