Posted in | Clean Technology

Scientists Create Bowl-Shaped Electrode with “Hot Edges” to Convert CO2 into Carbon-Based Fuels and Chemicals

A research team has developed a bowl-shaped electrode with “hot edges,” which can effectively turn CO2 from gas into carbon-based fuels and chemicals, helping to fight the climate change threat caused by atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The team of scientists, from the University of Bath, Fudan University, Shanghai, and the Shanghai Institute of Pollution Control and Ecological Security, expects that the catalyst design will ultimately enable the use of renewable electricity to turn CO2 into fuels without producing extra atmospheric carbon, typically functioning as an electrochemical “leaf” to change carbon dioxide into sugars.

This reaction, referred to as the reduction of carbon dioxide, has amazing potential but it has two significant barriers, which are poor conversion efficiency of the reaction and a lack of comprehensive knowledge about the accurate reaction pathway.

This new electrode deals with these problems with higher conversion efficiency and sensitive detection of molecules developed along the reaction’s progress, due to its revolutionary shape and construction. The bowl-shaped electrode functions six times faster when compared to standard planar or flat designs.

The bowl-like shape of the design, technically called an “inverse opal structure,” congregates electric fields on its hot edges—the rim of the bowl—which subsequently concentrates positively charged potassium ions on the active sites of the reaction, thereby decreasing its energy needs.

The Copper-Indium alloy electrode can also be helpful in sensitively examining the reaction process by measuring the Raman signal, which is higher than a typical electrode.

The research has been reported in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

There is no more pressing human need than breathing. Yet for hundreds of million people this most basic activity is a source of anxiety over lowering life expectancy, rising child mortality and climate change. There is evidence that CO2 increases surface ozone, carcinogens, and particulate matter, thereby increasing death, asthma, hospitalization, and cancer rates. It is therefore crucial to keep researching new ways for lowing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Professor Ventsislav Valev, Department of Physics, University of Bath

The team desires to continue the study to create the most efficient catalyst to carry out carbon reduction.

CO2 is causing climate change, making our planet warmer. By using clean electricity, we can convert CO2 into chemical fuels, which can be used again. This builds a cycle of CO2, with no increment of CO2 concentration and will help save our world. However, to improve the efficiency of transforming CO2 into chemical fuels, it is extremely important to know the reaction pathway, and find the most suitable catalyst. Just as plants transform CO2 into sugar we are finding suitable electrochemical ‘leaf’ for CO2 conversion.

Professor Liwu Zhang, Fudan University

The research was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, and National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Doctoral Training in Condensed Matter Physics (CDT-CMP), and the Royal Society.

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