New CO2 conversion technology helps fight climate change

By transforming carbon dioxide (COtwo) into fuels and other valuable chemicals at affordable prices on an industrial scale, a new technology developed at the University of Waterloo can make a significant difference in the fight against climate change.

Left: a schematic showing the key components of the reactor and the working mechanism. Right: a picture of the COtwo pile, which is a demonstration of commercial reactors. Image credit: University of Waterloo

The system produces 10 times more carbon monoxide (CO), which can be used to create methane, ethanol and other useful elements, than is currently produced by small-scale technologies. This was described in a study published in the journal nature energy.

In addition, its individual cells can be stacked to create reactors of any size, making the technology a cost-effective, tailor-made solution that can be implemented on-site, for example, in CO2-intensive factories.two emissions

This is a critical bridge to connect COtwo laboratory technology to industrial applications. Without it, it is very difficult for materials-based technologies to be used commercially because they are too expensive..

Dr. Zhongwei Chen, Professor, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo

The system is equipped with devices called electrolysers that transform COtwoa key greenhouse gas formed by the burning of fossil fuels, into CO with the use of electricity and water.

The electrolysers built by the scientists have the latest electrodes and a new type of liquid-based electrolyte, saturated with COtwo and convert it to CO through an electrochemical reaction.

Essentially, their electrolyzers are 10 X 10 cm cells, which are several times larger than current devices and could be configured or stacked in reactors of all sizes.

This is a brand new model for a COtwo reactor. Makes the entire process economically viable for industrialization and can be customized to meet specific requirements.

Dr. Zhongwei Chen, Professor, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo

Dr. Chen also holds the Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy at the University of Waterloo.

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Scientists envision in situ reactors at coal factories and power plants that would receive COtwo emissions directly, further reducing costs by eliminating the requirement to collect and capture COtwo first.

Adding to the green benefits, they also plan to load the reactors with on-site renewable energy sources such as solar panels.

I am excited about the potential of this technology.Chen stated. “If we really want to make a difference by reducing emissions, we have to focus on reducing costs to make it affordable..”

Postdoctoral fellow Dr. Guobin Wen and chemical engineering professors Dr. Aiping Yu and Dr. Jeff Gostick are among Chen’s collaborators at Waterloo. Many scientists from South China Normal University also contributed.

magazine reference

Wen. GRAM., and others. (2022) Continuous COtwo electrolysis using a COtwo Exsolution-induced flow cell. nature energy.


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