Researchers Aim To Convert GHG Into Useful Products Via Electricity

Jan. 5, 2024
Approach focuses on ionic liquid electrolytes that can alter the thermodynamics and product distribution.

Researchers at Cleveland-based Case Western Reserve University are developing eco-friendly ways to convert waste into fuels and valuable chemicals, with a focus on resolving the challenge of converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into products using electricity. The CO2 can be a useful raw material for commodity chemicals and fuels, but the process requires high pressures, temperatures and special materials. The team, led by Professor Burcu Gurkan, has made significant progress using ionic liquids—salts that melt below 100 degrees Celsius—as electrolytes in an electrochemical process to efficiently capture and convert CO2 at room temperature. This approach reduces energy requirements, avoids unwanted side reactions and enhances the potential for creating industrially relevant products.

“Our modern society is in critical need of technologies that can capture the CO2 from waste—or even air—and convert it to products at benign conditions,” said Burcu Gurkan, professor of chemical engineering at Case School of Engineering in a recent news release. “Electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide is an unresolved problem that is more than 150 years old.”

The study's co-authors, including postdoctoral researcher Saudagar Dongare and doctoral student Aidan Klemm, leveraged quantum calculations from researchers at New York University. The team plans to explore individual reaction steps further to refine electrolyte designs, aiming to better control the chemicals produced and advance electrochemical approaches to CO2 recycling. The research is supported by the National Science Foundation and contributes to the Center for Closing the Carbon Cycle and the Breakthrough Electrolytes for Energy Storage, both U.S. Department of Energy Energy Frontier Research Centers.

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