Dr. Zhongwei Chen, Professor and WIN Member, leads research team towards closing the carbon cycle

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Professor Zhongwei Chen and some members of his research groupProfessor Zhongwei Chen and his research team continue to advance toward closing the carbon cycle. In October, Chen’s research team published an article in the journal Nature Energy describing novel technology that could have a critical impact on the fight against climate change.

The system features devices known as electrolyzers that function within a reactor that converts CO2 into useful and environmentally benign chemicals such as ethanol using water and electricity. Primarily connected to climate change, COis a greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels.

The research group, over the last seven years, has developed electrolyzers that have new electrodes and a new kind of liquid-based electrolyte, which is saturated with CO2 and flows through the devices for conversion into ethanol, methane, and other useful chemicals via an electrochemical reaction.

The electrolyzer could be directly fed COemissions onsite, reducing costs by eliminating the need to capture and collect CO2 first.

Researchers have continued to optimize the design of the reactor to improve efficiency and affordability so that it can be a practical solution for industries that generate high COemissions.

new research paper has been published in the journal ACS Catalysis, chronicling the team’s advancement toward improving the design of the catalyst within the reactor. Professor Aiping Yu, University Research Chair and WIN Member, is also a contributing author.

“Right now, we can’t meet industrial requirements,” says Chen, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “So, we are designing catalysts with better activity, selectivity, and durability.”

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