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As part of the 7 million euro EU CO2SMOS project, Dr Ning Yan of the Van 't Hoff Institute of Molecular Sciences at the University of Amsterdam is developing an efficient co-electrolysis technology that combines the chemical reduction of CO2 with the production of value-added chemicals. Working closely with the Amsterdam-based company Avantium, Yan sets out to establish the technological, economical and environmental viability of the novel co-electrolysis concept.

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The focus of the CO2SMOS project, that will be publicly launched with an online event on 15 September, is on the conversion of CO2 emissions from bio-based industries into sustainable chemicals. By substituting fossil feedstocks with biological residues and waste to produce greener products, these industries already contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of chemicals production and improving the sustainability of the chemicals industry. However, this innovative sector has the opportunity to move a step further and create a fully circular bio-economy. For this, it has to find ways to also convert the biogenic CO2 emissions into sustainable biochemicals and biomaterials (e.g. bioplastics). In the CO2SMOS project, solutions are developed to transform the carbon emissions generated from bioprocesses (e.g. fermentation) into sustainable bioproducts such as durable polymers, renewable biochemicals, and biodegradable materials. These circular products can then be used in packaging, coatings, textiles, and materials for biomedical applications.

Co-electrolysis

Dr Ning Yan aims to develop an efficient co-electrolysis technology for CO2 conversion driven by electric power from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Together with Avantium, the industrial relevance of this process is validated. Based on the use of novel catalysts and electrochemical cells, the co-electrolysis technology will enable the simultaneous reduction of CO2/H2O to synthesis gas (at the cathode) and the selective oxidation of glycols to value-added hydroxycarboxylic acids (HCAs, at the anode). Avantium will then use the HCAs for the synthesis of novel 'green' polymers. The project aims to demonstrate the technical, economical and environmental sustainability of the novel co-electrolysis technology as the basis for the design of an integrated platform of CO2 conversion processes for bio-based industries. This holds the promise of achieving zero or even negative carbon emissions while replacing fossil-based chemicals with more sustainable ones using renewable sources (green H2 and biomass) and CO2 as main raw materials.

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