Micro-electrocatalytic Upgrading of Carbon Dioxide to Hydrocarbons

Period of Performance: 06/13/2016 - 03/12/2017


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Faraday Technology, Inc.
315 Huls Drive Array
Englewood, OH 45315
Firm POC
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
Institution POC


Statement of the problem or situation that is being addressed in your application. Coal-generated power represents a major source of electrical generation in the Nation, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. However, recently proposed limits on CO2 emissions from new electrical generation capacity will necessitate carbon capture functions to be installed on any new coal-fired power plant. Such capture technology opens numerous opportunities for exploiting the concentrated CO2 streams that will be generated in these contexts. • General statement of how this problem is being addressed. In this Phase I program, the feasibility of a novel microstructured copper electrocatalyst to afford conversion of CO2 to C2-C3 hydrocarbons using low-voltage power derived from waste heat or other sources will be investigated. Building on prior results showing enhanced selectivity for hydrocarbons, primarily ethylene, the proposed activity will explore the effects of various parameters in the electrocatalyst fabrication process on the catalytic performance of the resulting copper films. Further, the capability of wet ionic liquid electrolytes to enhance the hydrocarbon selectivity and reduce the required overpotential of the electrocatalytic conversion system will also be investigated. • What is to be done in Phase I? In the Phase I activity, copper electrocatalyst films will be electrodeposited onto stainless steel coupons and subjected to a literature oxide-reduction activation protocol using a variety of processing parameters. These functionalized coupons will be evaluated for their electrocatalytic performance, and the materials properties of the deposited films such as grain morphology and crystallographic configuration will be examined. A preliminary economic and scale-up analysis will be performed to evaluate the market feasibility using the experimental results from the program. • Commercial Applications and Other Benefits. The key future applications and future benefits of the proposed technology reside in mitigation of carbon emissions by providing a valuable conversion route for carbon dioxide captured from power generation facilities. The proposed electrocatalytic technology is intrinsically well suited for exploiting low-grade power sources, as their operating voltages are typically small, on the order a few volts. Successful development of an efficient technology for CO2 conversion using marginal energy sources has the potential to dramatically alter the economics of carbon captureenabled power generation. • Key Words: Carbon capture; CO2 conversion; pulsed electrochemical processing; copper electrocatalyst • Summary for Members of Congress: There is a pressing need to develop technologies capable of converting captured carbon dioxide to useful chemicals and/or fuels. The proposed program seeks to develop a copper electrocatalyst for conversion of carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons like ethylene, which are valuable as fuels and chemical feedstocks.