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New process more efficiently recycles excess CO2 into fuel: study

(Xinhua)    09:08, January 12, 2021

CHICAGO, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- A study of the University of Illinois (UI) introduces an electrochemical reaction, enhanced by polymers, to improve CO2-to-ethylene conversion efficiency over previous attempts.

In the study, the researchers combined the copper ions and polymers into a solution, then apply that solution to an electrode, entraining the polymer into the copper.

They found that the new polymer-entrained electrodes were less likely to break down and produced more stable chemical intermediates, resulting in more efficient ethylene production.

"We were able to convert CO2 to ethylene at a rate of up to 87 percent, depending on the electrolyte used," said UI graduate student Xinyi Chen. "That is up from previous reports of conversion rates of about 80 percent using other types of electrodes."

"With the development of economic sources of electricity, combined with the increased interest in CO2-reduction technology, we see great potential for commercialization of this process," said UI chemistry professor Andrew Gewirth.

Allowing CO2 gas to flow through a reaction chamber fitted with copper electrodes and an electrolyte solution is the most common method researchers use to convert CO2 to useful carbon-containing chemicals. Previous studies have used other metals and molecular coatings on the electrode to help direct the CO2-reduction reactions. However, these coatings are not stable, often break down during the reaction process and fall away from the electrodes.

The study, posted on UI's website on Tuesday, has been published in the journal Natural Catalysis.

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