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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Membraneless laminar flow cell for electrocatalytic CO2reduction with liquid product separation

  • Author(s): Monroe, MM
  • Lobaccaro, P
  • Lum, Y
  • Ager, JW
  • et al.

© 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd. The production of liquid fuel products via electrochemical reduction of CO2is a potential path to produce sustainable fuels. However, to be practical, a separation strategy is required to isolate the fuel-containing electrolyte produced at the cathode from the anode and also prevent the oxidation products (i.e. O2) from reaching the cathode. Ion-conducting membranes have been applied in CO2reduction reactors to achieve this separation, but they represent an efficiency loss and can be permeable to some product species. An alternative membraneless approach is developed here to maintain product separation through the use of a laminar flow cell. Computational modelling shows that near-unity separation efficiencies are possible at current densities achievable now with metal cathodes via optimization of the spacing between the electrodes and the electrolyte flow rate. Laminar flow reactor prototypes were fabricated with a range of channel widths by 3D printing. CO2reduction to formic acid on Sn electrodes was used as the liquid product forming reaction, and the separation efficiency for the dissolved product was evaluated with high performance liquid chromatography. Trends in product separation efficiency with channel width and flow rate were in qualitative agreement with the model, but the separation efficiency was lower, with a maximum value of 90% achieved.

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