Ethylene produced by cations


Schematic description of the catalyst–electrolyte interface for cation-coupled electron transfer leading to green ethylene production. Photo credit: POSTECH

Why is ethylene called the bread and butter of industry? This colorless gas serves as a feedstock for various petrochemical products such as plastics, vinyl and synthetic rubber, just as bread and butter are essential to the country’s diet. The technology that enables electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction that produces ethylene from CO2 instead of kerosene is a hot topic lately. Now, a Korean team of researchers has thoroughly analyzed the role of cations in converting CO2 into valuable chemical products.

A joint research team led by Professor Chang Hyuck Choi (Department of Chemistry) from POSTECH and Professor Hyungjun Kim (Department of Chemistry) from KAIST discovered that CO2 Electroreduction is highly dependent on the presence and concentration of cations. The results deviate from the conventional view that alkali metal cations do not affect the reaction.

The electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is a technology that produces valuable chemical products from the reaction of CO2 and water. The process has attracted attention as an environmentally friendly process that does not emit carbon and uses renewable energy sources. Numerous efforts are being made to make this technology commercially viable, but uncertainty about the mechanism behind the reaction has been a stumbling block.

POSTECH-KAIST researchers used an atomic-scale simulation based on quantum mechanics to investigate the mechanistic role of alkali metal cations (M+) to reactants at the catalyst–electrolyte interface. Their simulation demonstrated the cation coordination ability for each intermediate species, namely CO2 in this case stimulates the reaction. They also confirmed numbers from their concentration fits to prove that higher cation concentration leads to higher ethylene production rate.

Based on these research results, the research team additionally secured a catalyst-electrolyte interface control mechanism to increase the cation concentration in the electric double layer around the electrode, and succeeded in producing high-performance ethylene.

Professor Choi explained: “Our research has shown that M+ complexation to CO2−Intermediate is an essential mechanism for CO2 Reduction to produce ethylene. This mechanism suggests a new approach to identify powerful catalytic conditions and a meaningful step towards carbon neutrality by supporting fuel cell and water electrolysis technologies.”

This study was published in nature communication.

A breakthrough discovery in converting CO2 capture to ethylene production

More information:
Seung-Jae Shin et al, A unifying mechanism for the modulation of C1 and C2 productions from CO2 electroreduction by cation effects, nature communication (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-33199-8

Provided by Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH)

Citation: Ethylene fabricated by cations (2022, October 13), retrieved October 13, 2022 from

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