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Artificial Photosynthesis Made Possible with High-Performance Electrode System

Team of scientists develop a nano-sized, coral-shaped silver catalyst electrode and electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion system for artificial photosynthesis.

Carbon dioxide emissions are a major cause of global warming. Research in the field of artificial photosynthesis has made possible the conversion of carbon dioxide into usable chemical substances. This technology will help to rid the environment of carbon dioxide through an electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion field.

Previous research in carbon dioxide conversion were mainly conducted in the compound’s liquid state. In order to measure the performance of different conversion systems, electrodes have to be immersed in water. Due to the insolubility of carbon dioxide it has proven to be challenging to reach an optimal efficiency during the process in relation to the amount of energy used.

Another system which could convert carbon dioxide in its gaseous state was able to demonstrate that a higher efficiency system could be achieved. However, catalysts and electrodes that could be applied to this new system was limited.

A research team, led by Dr. Hyung-Suk Oh and Dr. Woong Hee Lee of the Clean Energy Research Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), working in cooperation with the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB), announced that they had developed coral-shaped, nano-sized silver catalyst electrodes that could be applied to high-efficiency carbon dioxide conversion systems utilizing carbon dioxide in its gaseous state.

By comparison, the newly developed catalyst now requires less energy to achieve a reaction and demonstrated to produce over 100 times more carbon monoxide than liquid-based systems. Successful application of these electrodes of the carbon dioxide conversion system in large areas shows its great potential for commercialization.

The research team developed a catalyst using real-time monitors to observe the behaviour of the catalyst or electrode structure during a reaction. The novel catalyst was produced using chlorine ions through a real-time, x-ray absorption analysis method. Its high substance delivery capacities were attributed to its large surface area and porous structure.

The catalysts were able to demonstrate high efficiency in the carbon dioxide conversion process. They further found that the carbon dioxide conversion process was less efficient when there was no hydrophobicity during the reaction; this means that a certain level of hydrophobicity must be maintained when developing carbon dioxide conversion electrodes in the future.

Dr. Hyung-Suk Oh of the KIST, who jointly led the research, said, “By developing nano-meter-sized, coral-shaped silver catalyst electrodes, we were able to greatly improve current density and the performance of the electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion system, thereby suggesting directions for future research.” He added, “It is expected that this study will greatly contribute to the R&D of electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion systems.” [APBN]