Researchers from the University of Toronto Engineering and the California Institute of Technology have come up with an improved and new system. The use of the system is for efficient conversion of renewable energy, water, and CO2 into ethylene, under normal conditions. Ethylene is a forerunner to a wide array of plastic products, from synthetic fabrics to medical devices. This system comes with the capacity to provide a carbon-neutral pathway for a chemical commonly used. Additionally, it improves the storage capacity of surplus renewable energy and waste carbon
The New System Aims to Produce Ethylene at a Much Lower Cost
According to the lead of the project, Professor Ted Sargent from the University of Toronto Engineering – CO2 has extremely low economic value. As such, this reduces its attractiveness even before it makes an entry into the atmosphere. However, its economic value changes on transforming into ethylene. Meanwhile, ethylene finds extensive use as an industrial product worldwide. Therefore, renewable ethylene offers a route to the displacement of fossil fuels, which are currently the main main feedstock of ethylene.
Sargent and his team had last year published a research paper in Science, an academic journal. In the paper, the team elaborated on the use of electrolyzer – a device that drives chemical reaction powered by electricity. In this system, the three main reactants namely electricity, water and CO2 gas all come together on the surface of catalyst.
The new device has come up as a breakthrough for the research team. However, there exists still a lot of room for improvement. In the latest version, the catalyst is further modified in an attempt to improve the performance of the system and reduce its cost of operation. This research work was published in the renowned journal, Nature.
In this research work, professor Sargent’s team worked with chemistry professors of the California Institute of Technology. The chemistry professors were Theodor Agapie and Jonas C. Peters. The research work that they published focused on a class of molecules called arylpyridiniums. The study suggested that the addition of these chemicals to the catalyst could assist in the production of ethylene.