Concept: Toshiba Corporation (Toshiba) has developed a new electrocatalyst technology to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbon monoxide, a raw material for fuel and chemicals. The electrocatalyst has an installation area about the size of a small-sized envelope, operates at room temperature, and can process up to a ton of CO2 a year.
Nature of Disruption: Toshiba’s in-house technology for stacking CO2 electrocatalyst electrodes improves processing speed and CO2 conversion rate. Earlier attempts to stack electrolytic cells slowed down the processing speed. The new CO2 electrolysis stack structure comes with a cooling mechanism inside the electrolysis cell. The company incorporated a cooling channel between the electrodes to prevent heat generation and reaction stagnation during CO2 conversion. Based on the application, the cooling flow path can be designed to match calorific value, meaning that this solution can be used in bigger cells and cell lamination. Prototyping and validation of a CO2 electrolysis stack of four cells, 23cm long, 13cm deep and 23cm high, with an electrode area of 100 cm2 revealed significant minimization of heat generation and the obtainment of a noticeably improved CO2 processing speed of 60 NL/h (maximum 1ton of CO2 a year).
Outlook: CO2 gas is often linked to climate change and there is growing interest in technologies that can capture and contain it or transform it into a more productive substance. Toshiba encourages decarbonization and reduced industrial CO2 emissions by advancing technologies for Power to Chemicals (P2C), which means recycling of CO2 through electrochemical reactions using surplus power generated from renewable energy sources. The company claims that the new electrocatalyst technology can be implemented in locations with limited space. For instance, an incineration plant that releases 200 tons of CO2 per day would need an installation area of 2,000 m2, approximately the area of 5 basketball courts. Observations to date also manifest that the stack can be scaled up which can be a crucial factor for bringing the P2C technology closer to commercialization.