Turning Carbon Dioxide into Liquid Fuel New electrocatalyst efficiently converts carbon dioxide into ethanol

Turning Carbon Dioxide into Liquid Fuel

A research team, led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with Northern Illinois University, has discovered a new electrocatalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into ethanol with very high energy efficiency, high selectivity for the desired final product and low cost. Ethanol is a particularly desirable commodity because it is an ingredient in nearly all U.S. gasoline and is widely used as an intermediate product in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

“The process resulting from our catalyst would contribute to the circular carbon economy, which entails the reuse of carbon dioxide,” said Di-Jia Liu, senior chemist in Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering division and a UChicago CASE scientist in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago. This process would do so by electrochemically converting the CO2 emitted from industrial processes, such as fossil fuel power plants or alcohol fermentation plants, into valuable commodities at reasonable cost.

“We have prepared several new catalysts using this approach and found that they are all highly efficient in converting CO2 to other hydrocarbons,” said Liu. ​“We plan to continue this research in collaboration with industry to advance this promising technology.”

Support for the research came from Argonne’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) fund provided by the DOE Office of Science and from the DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The corresponding scientific paper, ​“Highly selective electrocatalytic CO2 reduction to ethanol by metallic clusters dynamically formed from atomically dispersed copper,” appeared in a July 2020 issue of Nature Energy. In addition to Di-Jia Liu and Tao Xu, authors include Haiping Xu, Dominic Rebollar, Haiying He, Lina Chong, Yuzi Liu, Cong Liu, Cheng-Jun Sun, Tao Li, John V. Muntean and Randall E. Winans.

Source: Argonne National Laboratory