CO2EXIDE – CO2-based electrosynthesis of ethylene oxide

The goal of the project CO2EXIDE is the establishment of an electrochemical, energy efficient and near-to CO2-neutral process for the production of the bulk chemical ethylene from CO2, water and renewable energy. One of the central steps is the development of a new type of electrolyser that enables a simultaneous reaction on both anode and cathode, which is more efficient in terms of energy and resources.

 

CO2EXIDE.

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The CO2EXIDE profile film: Gain insight into this H2020 research project. See the people involved in the project at work in their laboratories and institutes on-site. Learn about the process behind the research and successful utilization of CO2 to produce the chemical ethylene.

Development of novel electrochemical flow cell

The project ”CO2EXIDE – CO2-based electrosynthesis of ethylene oxide” that is coordinated by Fraunhofer IGB commenced on January 1, 2018 within the scope of the public-private partnership SPIRE (Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency).

The Straubing branch BioCat is developing a combined electrochemical-chemical technology for the production of ethylene oxide from biobased CO2. The CO2EXIDE approach unites physicists, chemists, engineers and communication experts from five research institutions, two industrial enterprises and three SMEs in this project. Through their key technologies, they will make a contribution towards the development of an unprecedented process based on CO2, renewable energies and water, thus demonstrating that the chemistry sector can be synergetically combined with the energy sector.

One of the central steps is the development of a new type of electrolyzer that enables a simultaneous reaction on both anode and cathode, which is more efficient in terms of energy and resources. The produced ethylene and hydrogen peroxide will finally be fed into a chemical cascade reactor and converted into ethylene oxide and different polyethylene glycols.

Synthesis of hydrogen peroxide in an electrochemical cell

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is an important chemical product. At present, 95 percent of the world’s annual H2O2 production of about 2.2 million tonnes is based on the anthraquinone process – a costly method and impractical for routine on-site application at small scale.

An alternate synthetic pathway is the electrosynthesis of H2O2, which is cost-efficient and applicable on both large and small scales. In collaboration with the University of Southampton, Fraunhofer IGB researchers recently published a review article describing various approaches to design and assess electrode materials for H2O2 electrosynthesis [1]. One such approach is the partial reduction of oxygen (O2) at cathodes featuring either noble metal alloys or doped carbon. Alternatively, H2O2 can be prepared by oxidizing water (H2O) using efficient anodic catalysts such as those based on BiVO4. The main challenge in the latter approach is to suppress the thermodynamically favored oxygen evolution reaction.

Catalysts for synthesis of ethylene through reduction of CO2, and hydrogen peroxide through oxidation of water

As part of the EU-funded CO2EXIDE project, the task of Fraunhofer IGB is to develop active and selective catalysts for simultaneously synthesising ethylene (C2H4) through cathodic reduction of CO2, and hydrogen peroxide through anodic oxidation of water. Both products are used in a subsequent reaction step to generate ethylene oxide (C2H4O). Thus, the CO2EXIDE approach enables the efficient production of three important platform chemicals, namely ethylene, hydrogen peroxide, and ethylene oxide, from the educts CO2, water and electric energy, hence from entirely renewable resources.

 

Literature

[1] Perry, S.C.; Pangotra, D.; Vieira, L. et al. (2019) Electrochemical synthesis of hydrogen peroxide from water and oxygen. Nat Rev Chem 3: 442–458.doi:10.1038/s41570-019-0110-6

Further publications within the project CO2Exide

Rodin, V.; Lindorfer, J.; Böhm, H.; Vieira, L. (2020) Assessing the potential of carbon dioxide valorisation in Europe with focus on biogenic CO2. Journal of CO2 Utilization 41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcou.2020.101219

Project information

Project title

CO2EXIDE – CO2-based electrosynthesis of ethylene oxide


Project duration

January 2018 – December 2020

 

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Germany (Coordination)
  • University of Science and Technology Krákow, Poland
  • Institute of Solid State Physics of the University of Latvia, Latvia
  • Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary
  • University of Southampton, Department Engineering and the Environment, United Kingdom
  • Schaeffler Technologies AG & CO. KG, Germany
  • Siemens AG, Germany
  • Energy Institute at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria
  • Axiom angewandte Prozesstechnik, Austria
  • EPC – Project Corporation Climate. Sustainability. Communications. mbH, Germany

Funding

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 768789.

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