Microfluidic System for CO2 Reduction to Hydrocarbons

Period of Performance: 02/29/2016 - 11/21/2016

$150K

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

Abstract

In the near term, in order to mitigate carbon emissions to the extent possible while carbon-neutral, renewable energy resources are developed sufficiently to address the total demand of the Nation, there is a significant need for technologies capable of up-converting captured carbon dioxide either to value-added products or to forms able to be safely sequestered. In particular, access must be opened to a larger and more diverse market than just direct sales of the captured CO2. Electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 to value-added materials has been demonstrated on a number of metallic and alloy materials. In the proposed Phase I program, tin electrocatalysts, known for their capability to reduce CO2 to formate, will be fabricated with novel microstructures enabled by pulsed-waveform electrodeposition. These electrocatalysts will be incorporated into a state-of-the-art benchtop flow-through electroreactor to demonstrate preliminary feasibility of economical conversion of CO2 to formate. Existing, patented electrodeposition cells with carefully tailored flow pathways will be retrofitted for electrodeposition of tin onto high-surface area substrates such as carbon felt and/or carbon paper. Pulsed-waveform electrodeposition will be used to fabricate tin electrocatalyst layers in a variety of micro-structural configurations. These electrocatalysts will be characterized by various methods and integrated into a state-of-the-art flow-through electroreactor for benchtop evaluation of their CO2 reduction performance. A high-level life-cycle analysis and near-term economic/scale-up analysis will be performed to provide insight, respectively, into the true environmental benefits afforded by the technology and the contours of its pathway to commercialization. In order to minimize carbon dioxide emissions from burning of fossil fuels, enhanced technologies for the conversion of captured carbon dioxide are needed. This program seeks to develop a process to transform carbon dioxide to formic acid by electrochemical means as a partial solution to this challenge. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: A suitably efficient and selective conversion process would provide a means for converting waste carbon dioxide to a significantly more valuable material with substantial market outlets in animal husbandry, fabric production, and in the manufacture of products as diverse as pharmaceuticals and PVC plastic. Significant public benefit in the form of mitigation of the atmospheric greenhouse gas burden would result from introduction of an economical process for diversion of emitted carbon dioxide.