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Excessive-efficiency carbon dioxide electroreduction system reduces our carbon footprint and progressing carbon neutrality objectives


International warming continues to pose a risk to human society and the ecological programs, and carbon dioxide accounts for the most important proportion of the greenhouse gases that dominate local weather warming. To fight local weather change and transfer in direction of the purpose of carbon neutrality, researchers from The Hong Kong Polytechnic College (PolyU) have developed a sturdy, extremely selective and energy-efficient carbon dioxide (CO2) electroreduction system that may convert CO2 into ethylene for industrial functions to offer an efficient resolution for lowering CO2 emissions. This analysis was lately revealed in Nature Vitality and received a Gold Medal on the forty eighth Worldwide Exhibition of Innovations Geneva in Switzerland.

Ethylene (C2H4) is among the most in-demand chemical compounds globally and is principally used within the manufacture of polymers comparable to polyethylene, which, in flip, can be utilized to make plastics and chemical fibres generally utilized in each day life. Nevertheless, it’s nonetheless largely obtained from petrochemical sources and the manufacturing course of entails the creation of a really important carbon footprint.

Led by Prof. Daniel LAU, Chair Professor of Nanomaterials and Head of the Division of Utilized Physics, the analysis group adopted the tactic of electrocatalytic CO2 discount — utilizing inexperienced electrical energy to transform carbon dioxide into ethylene, offering a extra environmentally pleasant various and steady ethylene manufacturing. The analysis group is working to advertise this rising expertise to deliver it nearer to mass manufacturing, closing the carbon loop and in the end attaining carbon neutrality.

Prof. Lau’s innovation is to dispense with the alkali-metal electrolyte and use pure water as a metal-free anolyte to forestall carbonate formation and salt deposition. The analysis group denotes their design the APMA system, the place A stands for anion-exchange membrane (AEM), P represents the proton-exchange membrane (PEM), and MA signifies the ensuing membrane meeting.

When an alkali-metal-free cell stack containing the APMA and a copper electrocatalyst was constructed, it produced ethylene with a excessive specificity of fifty%. It was additionally capable of function for over 1,000 hours at an industrial-level present of 10A — a really important enhance in lifespan over current programs, which means the system may be simply expanded to an industrial scale.

Additional checks confirmed that the formation of carbonates and salts was suppressed, whereas there was no lack of CO2 or electrolyte. That is essential, as earlier cells utilizing bipolar membranes as an alternative of APMA suffered from electrolyte loss because of the diffusion of alkali-metal ions from the anolyte. The formation of hydrogen in competitors with ethylene, one other downside affecting earlier programs that used acidic cathode environments, was additionally minimised.

One other key function of the method is the specialised electrocatalyst. Copper is used to catalyse a variety of reactions throughout the chemical business. Nevertheless, the precise catalyst utilized by the analysis group took benefit of some distinctive options. The tens of millions of nano-scale copper spheres had richly textured surfaces, with steps, stacking faults and grain boundaries. These “defects” — relative to an excellent steel construction — supplied a beneficial setting for the response to proceed.

Prof. Lau stated, “We’ll work on additional enhancements to reinforce the product selectivity and look for collaboration alternatives with the business. It’s clear that this APMA cell design underpins a transition to inexperienced manufacturing of ethylene and different precious chemical compounds and may contribute to lowering carbon emissions and attaining the purpose of carbon neutrality.”

This progressive PolyU challenge was a collaboration with researchers from the College of Oxford, the Nationwide Synchrotron Radiation Analysis Centre of Taiwan and Jiangsu College.

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