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Pure-Water-Fed Forward-Bias Bipolar Membrane CO2 Electrolyzer

  • Heßelmann, Matthias
  • Lee, Jason Keonhag
  • Chae, Sudong
  • Tricker, Andrew
  • Keller, Robert Gregor
  • Wessling, Matthias
  • Su, Ji
  • Kushner, Douglas
  • Weber, Adam Z
  • Peng, Xiong
Publication Date
May 15, 2024
eScholarship - University of California
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Coupling renewable electricity to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) electrochemically into carbon feedstocks offers a promising pathway to produce chemical fuels sustainably. While there has been success in developing materials and theory for CO2 reduction, the widespread deployment of CO2 electrolyzers has been hindered by challenges in the reactor design and operational stability due to CO2 crossover and (bi)carbonate salt precipitation. Herein, we design asymmetrical bipolar membranes assembled into a zero-gap CO2 electrolyzer fed with pure water, solving both challenges. By investigating and optimizing the anion-exchange-layer thickness, cathode differential pressure, and cell temperature, the forward-bias bipolar membrane CO2 electrolyzer achieves a CO faradic efficiency over 80% with a partial current density over 200 mA cm-2 at less than 3.0 V with negligible CO2 crossover. In addition, this electrolyzer achieves 0.61 and 2.1 mV h-1 decay rates at 150 and 300 mA cm-2 for 200 and 100 h, respectively. Postmortem analysis indicates that the deterioration of catalyst/polymer-electrolyte interfaces resulted from catalyst structural change, and ionomer degradation at reductive potential shows the decay mechanism. All these results point to the future research direction and show a promising pathway to deploy CO2 electrolyzers at scale for industrial applications.

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