Electrochemical CO2 Reduction: Path towards a Carbon Neutral Chemical Industry?

Talk by Professor Paul J.A. Kenis

Elio E. Tarika Endowed Chair, Professor, and Department Head 
Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The chemical industry today largely relies on fossil fuels as its major feedstock and applies a range of energy-intense thermal and/or catalytic processes to convert these feeds into different bulk chemicals. These processes are responsible for a sizeable fraction of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions that are contributing to global warming and associated issues such as climate change, rising sea levels, and more erratic weather patterns. The use of CO2 as the feedstock for the production of bulk chemicals such as CO, ethylene, and ethanol via electrochemical CO2 reduction, has the potential to reform the chemical industry to be close to carbon neutral. Not only does this approach utilize some of the CO2 that otherwise would be emitted in the atmosphere, it also avoids the sizeable CO2 emissions associated with many of the aforementioned energy demanding processes that use fossil fuels as the feed. This presentation will highlight some of our recent efforts in catalyst, electrode, and electrolyzer design and characterization for the electrochemical conversion of CO2 into value-added chemicals. Our efforts, often with collaborators, have led to multiple promising catalysts, electrodes, reactor designs, and processes. The presentation also will feature techno-economic feasibility and life-cycle analyses that indicate where the remaining hurdles are on a path to an economic carbon neutral chemical industry. This includes analysis of a co-electrolysis approach that involves reduction of CO2 on the cathode paired with oxidation of glycerol (a waste product of biofuel production) at the anode as a way to drastically reduce the overall energy requirement of the process.




Tue 28 Jan 20


DTU Fysik


DTU Physics
Building 311
1st floor / Lounge