Revolutionary advances in CO2 utilization technology

 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

Converting the climate-damaging CO2 into usable substances could offer an important approach to tackling the climate crisis.

Promising methods have already been developed at the Johannes Kepler University Linz. A new discovery now brings industrial use within reach.

Using special catalysts, Assoc. Prof. Wolfgang Schöfberger (JKU Institute of Organic Chemistry) developed a method years ago on a laboratory scale to convert CO2 into industrial alcohol. In general, the electrochemical conversion of CO2 to usable C1- and C2- building blocks (syngas(CO+H2), methanol, ethanol, formic acid or acetic acid) is already technically widespread. Suitable catalyzers are required for this. The problem: "Catalysts based on metallic copper, silver or gold are usually used," says Schöfberger. These materials are not very stable in industrial operation and are therefore very expensive - and hardly any research is being carried out into alternative materials.

The JKU researchers have now presented a groundbreaking approach that makes it possible to improve the entire process from the idea of producing tiny catalyst molecules that enable chemical reactions to incorporating these molecules into electrode materials. These structures can then be used directly in industry.

Significant increase in efficiency

But the method goes beyond this and improves not only these catalysts, but also the conditions under which the catalysts work, so that they perform their function for far longer than with conventional metallic catalyst materials. This comprehensive approach has made it possible to achieve an impressive increase in performance in the conversion of CO2 into other substances by electrolysis - and at very high current levels. The efficiency of the system remains very high, as very little of the catalyst is lost over time.

"In addition to the significant improvements in the amount of carbon monoxide produced, we are making a wide range of tools available to the scientific community," says Schöfberger. These tools allow researchers to directly optimize the performance of catalysts and cells for CO2 conversion at different scales. This approach opens up new possibilities for environmentally friendly and efficient technologies for the use of CO2.

Our research marks a significant step forward in the development of catalysts for the electrochemical conversion of CO2. The results obtained show not only increased efficiency, but also practical applicability in an industrial context. This could make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions and drive forward the vision of a sustainable future," says Wolfgang Schöfberger, seeing the breakthrough as an important step towards tackling the climate crisis.

Paper: https: //www.cell.com/cell-reports-physical-science/fulltext/S2666-3864(23)00591-X