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CO2 Electrolyzer Nears Commercialization

ACS Meeting News: 3M and Dioxide Materials team up in an industry effort to find an economical use for carbon dioxide emissions

by Stephen K. Ritter
March 30, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 13

This week’s selections are from the ACS national meeting, which took place on March 22–26 in Denver.
Credit: Dioxide Materials
Diagram showing the concept of CO2 reduction to CO.
Credit: Dioxide Materials

In a bid to reduce industry’s carbon footprint, 3Mand start-up company Dioxide Materials have teamed up to develop a CO2 electrolyzer. Rather than allowing CO2 to be released into the air or pumped underground, the electrolyzer converts the greenhouse gas into feedstocks that can be used to make fuels and higher-value chemicals. 3M’s Tyler Matthews described how the team has built several working prototypes of the electrolyzer for reducing CO2 to CO or formic acid using solar or wind energy. Researchers have previously found electrolytic CO2 reduction uneconomical because the selectivity and energy efficiency of the process were modest. Scientists led by Dioxide Materials founder Richard I. Masel identified a silver imidazolium cocatalyst system that decreases the CO2 reduction energy barrier and raises CO selectivity. They also developed a proprietary anionic electrolyte membrane for the new electrolyzer. Matthews reported that the team has achieved up to 99% CO2 conversion and pushed energy efficiency to more than 80%. The team, funded in part by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program, is now conducting long-term performance studies and expects to start pilot-plant studies next year.


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