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Why do we do what we do? – Dr. Richard Jones

Dr. Richard Jones

The team and I have decades of experience in utilizing electrolyser technology within the chemical industry, but primarily applied to the replacement of hazardous gas cylinders with a smarter and safer technology. It was this early experience that committed us towards the general principle of using science to improve the lives, and in some cases saving the lives, of people around the world. Now, with the effects of increased CO2 emissions being felt daily on a global scale, this led to us focusing on how we can adapt our proven technology to the reduction of these emissions for the betterment of everyone. Many of our team are mothers and fathers and it has not gone unnoticed the link between rising CO2 levels and its effects on children, such as increasing asthma cases and higher susceptibility to infections and diseases. All of us feel the necessity to work towards providing the best future for humankind, so the CO2 conversion project is something we are very passionate about. When we initially looked at this project, we agreed to work towards a solution that would make CO2 conversion profitable for companies implementing the technology, because that would increase adoption across industries much better than political legislation and taxation can, which has only had a modest effect so far. This solution would effectively be a combination of the carrot (our technology) and the stick (taxation, regulations).

What is a zero-gap electrolyser cell exactly? – Dr. Csaba Janáky

Dr. Csaba Janáky

Microfluidic cells employ a continuously flowing liquid electrolyte between the anode and the cathode gas diffusion electrode (GDE), while CO2 is continuously passed through a channel behind the GDE to supply reactant to the cathode. In contrast, zero-gap electrolyser cells encompass a GDE pressed between a current collector (having a gas-flow pattern) and the membrane. By carefully designing the gas-flow channels and controlling the compression of the GDE (i.e., maintain proper electronic contact without blocking the pore structure or breaking the structure) CO2 gas can be forced into the GDE. This approach leads to a very high local CO2 concentration at the catalyst surface and increased reactant residence time, together allowing high single-pass conversion efficiency. In this configuration, a triple-phase boundary (the ionomer-coated catalyst/water/CO2 gas) is formed in direct contact with the membrane. Controlling the pressure of the reactant is an effective way to further increase the reaction rate, selectivity, and conversion efficiency. Importantly, zero-gap electrolysers in principle allow operation at elevated pressure, because the membrane and the cathode GDE are supported from both sides. The best practices of the water electrolysis community can therefore be employed in this case, allowing simple system control. By contrast, in case of the microfluidic reactors, the liquid and gas pressures must be simultaneously and precisely controlled (not to break any components which are not mechanically supported from both sides), requiring very sophisticated equipment and protocols, which also makes scale up challenging.

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