The project is one of thirteen innovative ideas in the field of electrochemical conversion and materials that were recently awarded. The ECCM KICkstart DE-NL call is intended for exploratory, cross-border and public-private projects between Germany and the Netherlands in the field of ElectroChemical Conversion and Materials (ECCM). In particular, it is aimed at accelerating the electrification of the chemical industry, which is regarded as one of the most pressing challenges of the energy transition. The call is funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and conducted by the Dutch Research Council NWO.
Enhancing paired electrolysis of carbon dioxide
In her project, Amanda Garcia focuses on paired electrolysis. This is a promising approach for the efficient synthesis of fuels and chemicals from CO2 using electricity (that is preferably generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar). In a typical electrolyser, CO2 is reduced in the cathode while at the anode oxygen is generated. The latter consumes a substantial amount of energy which frustrates the economic viability of the process. A solution for this is to pair the cathodic CO2 conversion with the anodic oxidation of organic molecules. Not only does this consume relatively little energy, but it also generates products that are more valuable than oxygen.
Making this concept an industrial reality depends for a large part on the stability and activity of electrocatalysts under operation conditions. These result in corrosion of the electrode material and its poisoning by adsorbed reaction intermediates. All this decreases the current density and faradaic efficiency of the overall process. Therefore, for industrial applications, it is crucial to understand and control the stability of electrocatalysts.
In her project, Garcia will combine electrochemical methodology with scanning electrochemical techniques to image the reactions on high surface area anodes during the electrochemical oxidation of glycerol and glucose to lactic acid (a valuable chemical utilized for the production of biobased polymer) and glucaric acid (a key building block for the synthesis of biodegradable polymers). In particular, the aim is to establish the spatial distribution of the catalyst activity and stability through scanning droplet cell (SDC) and scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM). The research will lead to the identification and development of highly active and stable electrode materials such as Ni-M-oxide-based electrocatalysts (M = Fe, Bi, Co).