Electrochemical reduction of CO2 to CO – Towards industrial application

January 2018 - January 2022

The rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration has been linked to a global warming of 1.0 ± 0.2 °C since pre-industrial times. The need for negative emissions to prevent a global warming superior to 1.5 °C has increased the attractiveness of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and utilization technologies. In this regard, the electrochemical conversion of CO2 stands out for the ability to store intermittent renewable electrical energy as chemical energy. In particular carbon monoxide is an interesting product in terms of revenue per mole of electrons since its production takes up only two moles of electrons per mole of carbon dioxide reduced. At the same time, it has broad applications in the chemical industry being the most significant in its use as syngas in the Fischer-Tropsch process for the synthesis of multi-carbon compounds.

However, regarding an industrial implementation of electrochemical CO2 electrolyzers towards CO there are still several challenges that have to be solved. Among these are the large overpotentials needed for the first electron transfer step, the need for precious metals and pure CO2 feed, deficient mass transfer or stability of the catalyst. For electrolyzers to be commercially applicable, long-term stability and selectivity with current densities above 200 mA/cm2 are required. This project aims at increasing the TRL of the technology and build an electrolyzer, focusing on its upscaling limitations. Different commercial catalysts and deposition methods will be tested, targeting high activity and stability. A critical approach to the common PEM electrolyzer engineering will be taken and novel reactor configurations will be pinpointed with the goal of raising commercial interest on the technology.