One of the main contributors to global warming is the release of carbon dioxide. One potential remedy is the electrochemical transformation of carbon dioxide into more beneficial molecules like carbon monoxide, formic acid, and hydrocarbons. They play a crucial role in the manufacture of chemicals and fuels. However, the reaction still has a significant energy need.
To achieve an efficient electrochemical reduction of CO2, significant technological advancements in catalyst properties, electrode design, and electrolyte composition have recently been reported. However, several challenges still need to be addressed before the technology is commercially attractive, particularly associated with aqueous electrolytes.
In collaboration with Shell, scientists from the University of Twente developed a new mechanism that makes the conversion of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. Scientists designed novel molecules, innovating a new pathway for CO2 conversion.
These new molecules can assist in the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide.
UT Ph.D. student and lead author Sobhan Neyrizi said, “Our molecules act as co-catalysts that reduce the energy demands of the reaction to a great extent. We could also propose design principles for developing more efficient molecules.”
“In electrochemistry, electrons are used as a cheap energy source. But transferring electrons to carbon dioxide – the key step needed for the conversion – demands too much energy. The energy needed can be drastically reduced by transferring protons and electrons to carbon dioxide molecules simultaneously. The designed co-catalysts make this simultaneous transfer possible on a surface of gold.”
“We could reach 100% efficiency for the conversion, which means that all electrons we put into the reaction get used.”