Towards Solar Methanol: Past, Present, and Future

Athanasios A. Tountas, Xinyue Peng, Alexandra V. Tavasoli, Paul N. Duchesne, Thomas L. Dingle, Yuchan Dong, Lourdes Hurtado, Abhinav Mohan, Wei Sun, Ulrich Ulmer, Lu Wang, Thomas E. Wood, Christos T. Maravelias, Mohini M. Sain, Geoffrey A. Ozin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


This work aims to provide an overview of producing value-added products affordably and sustainably from greenhouse gases (GHGs). Methanol (MeOH) is one such product, and is one of the most widely used chemicals, employed as a feedstock for ≈30% of industrial chemicals. The starting materials are analogous to those feeding natural processes: water, CO 2 , and light. Innovative technologies from this effort have global significance, as they allow GHG recycling, while providing society with a renewable carbon feedstock. Light, in the form of solar energy, assists the production process in some capacity. Various solar strategies of continually increasing technology readiness levels are compared to the commercial MeOH process, which uses a syngas feed derived from natural gas. These strategies include several key technologies, including solar-thermochemical, photochemical, and photovoltaic–electrochemical. Other solar-assisted technologies that are not yet commercial-ready are also discussed. The commercial-ready technologies are compared using a technoeconomic analysis, and the scalability of solar reactors is also discussed in the context of light-incorporating catalyst architectures and designs. Finally, how MeOH compares against other prospective products is briefly discussed, as well as the viability of the most promising solar MeOH strategy in an international context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1801903
JournalAdvanced Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 17 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • General Materials Science
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


  • commercial methanol production
  • solar methanol
  • solar reactor design and engineering
  • solar-assisted processes
  • technoeconomic analysis


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