RII Track-2 FEC: Fundamental Insights into the Durability and Efficiencies of CO2 Electrolyzers

  • Flake, John C. (PI)
  • Yao, Koffi K.P. (CoPI)
  • Yan, Yushan Y. (CoPI)
  • Elgrishi, Noemie N. (CoPI)
  • Mcpeak, Kevin K. (CoPI)
  • Arges, Christopher (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The objective of this work is to advance industrially-viable CO2 electrolyzers and to develop a diverse workforce for sustainable chemical manufacturing. Currently, common products such as detergents, anti-freeze, and tennis shoes are made using natural gas or crude feedstocks and non-renewable energy. A new process, discovered in 1985, showed that CO2 could be converted into the precursor chemicals needed for these products; however, the rates and efficiencies were far from being economically viable. Outcomes from this project will reveal the fundamental science that controls durability and efficiency of CO2 electrolyzers. The work is critical to improve the sustainability of one of America's largest manufacturing sectors. Chemical manufacturing is responsible for supporting over 25% of the GDP and over 6 million jobs in the US. The work is particularly important to the economies of Delaware and Louisiana where chemical manufacturing is ranked either first or second in terms of manufacturing's contribution to gross state product. Further, this research project will directly engage a diverse group of 9 investigators and over 70 graduate and undergraduate students along with representatives from leading chemical manufacturers. Other outreach activities are planned to provide meaningful experiences related to STEM education and careers for thousands of K-12 students in Delaware and Louisiana.

The technical outcomes from this project will advance electrolytic production of ethanol and ethylene from CO2 and H2O. We seek to understand critical parameters that control durability and efficiencies of CO2 electrolyzers including the underlying science that governs failures. Our work focuses on two types of polymeric membranes (anionic and bipolar) along with copper, silver and cascade (molecular + copper) electrocatalysts. Research aims are organized into: systems, materials and characterization efforts. The system work focuses on electrolyzer design, integration and technoeconomic analyses. The materials work focuses on interfaces of polymeric membranes and electrocatalysts. Characterization work focuses on atomic and molecular interactions and will be probed using synchrotron-source x-rays, operando Raman and identical location tunneling electron microscopy. Outcomes from the work would reveal how anionic exchange membrane and bipolar membrane approaches influence reaction behaviors and stability over long periods of electrolysis, how failures occur, how to mitigate failures (including designing ideal interfaces) and how to perform accelerated testing of promising electrolyzer materials. The planned activities and collaborations leverage unique strengths and improve the research capacities of two flagship universities: Louisiana State University and the University of Delaware.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/219/30/25


  • National Science Foundation: $999,990.00


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