Accumulation of Liquid Byproducts in an Electrolyte as a Critical Factor That Compromises Long-Term Functionality of CO2-to-C2H4 Electrolysis

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Abstract

Electrochemical conversion of CO2 using Cu-based gas diffusion electrodes opens the way to green chemical production as an alternative to thermocatalytic processes and a storage solution for intermittent renewable electricity. However, diverse challenges, including short lifetimes, currently inhibit their industrial usage. Among well-studied determinants such as catalyst characteristics and electrode architecture, possible effects of byproduct accumulation in the electrolyte as an operational factor have not been elucidated. This work quantifies the influence of ethanol, n-propanol, and formate accumulation on selectivity, stability, and cell potential in a CO2-to-C2H4 electrolyzer. Alcohols accelerated flooding by degrading the hydrophobic electrode characteristics, undermining selective and stable ethylene formation. Furthermore, high alcohol concentrations triggered the catalyst layer’s abrasion and structural disfigurements in the Nafion 117 membrane, leading to high cell potentials. Therefore, continuous removal of alcohols from the electrolyte medium or substantial modifications in the cell components must be considered to ensure long-term performing CO2-to-C2H4 electrolyzers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45844-45854
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Volume15
Issue number39
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • CO electrolysis
  • GDE
  • alcohols
  • electrochemical reduction
  • flooding
  • membrane
  • stability

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