Project News

De Nora’s Role in Energy Transition and CO2 Electrochemical Reduction: Keynote Lecture at ICCDU 2023

The 20th International Conference on Carbon Dioxide Utilization (ICCDU-XX) is set to be a significant event for the discussion and advancement of sustainable technologies. Among the distinguished speakers, De Nora, an Italian multinational company listed on the Euronext Milan Stock Exchange, will take the stage to deliver a keynote lecture on their role in the energy transition and CO2 electrochemical reduction. This article provides an overview of De Nora’s involvement in the field, highlighting the projects SELECTCO2 and ECO2Fuel, as well as introducing the presenter, Daniela Galliani.

De Nora is a renowned leader in electrochemistry and specializes in providing sustainable technologies. With a century of experience in the industry, the company has become the world’s largest supplier of high-performing catalytic coatings and insoluble electrodes for various electrochemical and industrial applications. Additionally, De Nora is a leading provider of equipment, systems, disinfection, and filtration solutions for water and wastewater treatment, emphasizing their commitment to promoting environmental stewardship.

In line with the global shift towards a greener economy, De Nora has embraced the challenge of the energy transition by focusing on two main approaches: hydrogen production via electrolysis and CO2 electrochemical reduction. Through their innovative technical solutions, De Nora aims to contribute to the production of hydrogen, which holds significant potential as a future energy carrier and an essential component of the green economy.

For hydrogen production, De Nora offers industrial-level solutions such as DSA® Electrodes for Alkaline Water Electrolysis (AWE), Electrolysis Cells, and Gas Diffusion Electrodes (GDE) for fuel cells. By participating in large-scale projects, De Nora plays a crucial role in implementing hydrogen as a reactant for future energy carriers and fuels.

Furthermore, De Nora is actively involved in the study and development of CO2 electrochemical reduction through collaborations in financed projects. The company’s research and development teams across three different sites, namely the United States, Italy, and Germany, are currently working on this exciting technology. Their ambitious goal is to achieve efficient direct electrochemical conversion of CO2 into valuable chemicals or fuels, thereby contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the utilization of carbon dioxide as a resource.

During the ICCDU 2023 keynote lecture, De Nora will shed light on their efforts and achievements in the field of CO2 electrochemical reduction. They will discuss two significant projects, SELECTCO2 and ECO2Fuel, which showcase their commitment to technological innovation and sustainability.

The SELECTCO2 project focuses on exploring and developing efficient methods for the direct electrochemical conversion of CO2 into valuable chemicals or fuels. By leveraging their expertise in electrochemistry and electrodes, De Nora aims to drive advancements in this area, ultimately enabling a more sustainable and circular carbon economy.

The ECO2Fuel project, on the other hand, aims to tackle the challenge of CO2 utilization by converting it into a carbon-neutral fuel. De Nora’s contributions to this project will be highlighted during the keynote lecture, emphasizing their dedication to finding practical solutions to the global climate crisis.

The keynote lecture will be delivered by Daniela Galliani, who currently serves as the Program Leader within De Nora’s Energy Transition and Hydrogen (ETH) Department. With a background in chemistry and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, specializing in organic electronics with thermoelectric applications, Galliani brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role.

In her previous position as a researcher in De Nora’s R&D team, Galliani focused primarily on the electrochemical reduction of CO2. Now, as the Program Leader, she manages activities related to diaphragms for Alkaline Water Electrolysis (AWE) and coordinates the company’s research and development activities in the Anion Exchange Membrane Water Electrolysis (AEM WE) field.

Project News

Membrane Characterization and Electrode Optimization

The DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics in Oldenburg is mainly involved in two topics of the ECO2Fuel project: the characterization of the membrane and the optimization of the electrodes.

The heart of the electrolysis cell

The membrane is the heart of the cell and responsible for separating the anode and cathode and transporting anions between the two electrodes. The ion-conducting properties of the membrane are a decisive factor in the performance of the electrolysis cell. However, the membrane is also susceptible to chemical or mechanical degradation.

For these reasons, a comprehensive characterization of the performance and stability properties is essential.

These are being investigated using various methods at DLR in Oldenburg, including the dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA).

DMA is a technique where a stress is applied and the strain in the material is analyzed, used to characterize a material’s mechanical properties as a function of the applied stress, temperature, time, atmosphere, or a combination of these parameters.

For the CO2 electrolysis application in ECO2Fuel we investigate the membrane properties in a liquid environment under temperatures from 0 to 100°C. We try to be as close as possible to the operation conditions in the electrolysis cell, which is why the information about the membrane’s properties derived by DMA is crucial for designing the ECO2Fuel’s stack and system.

DLR Oldenburg focuses on developing stable catalyst inks

Regarding electrode optimization, DLR in Oldenburg focuses on developing stable catalyst inks for spray coating on the anode. The catalyst ink consists of the catalyst for the anode reaction, a binder material, and a solvent.

While DLR Oldenburg is not active in developing the catalyst, the materials that accelerate the reaction of CO2 into valuable chemicals, we are focusing on the ink composition.

For the ink, the binder serves has a twofold purpose: it serves as literally a physical binder, holding the catalyst layer (CL) together, on the other hand it is needed as an ion conductor through this layer. That is why the binder in most cases is a polymer material with the same chemical structure as the membrane. Thus, in order to have a good ion conduction, sufficient binder has to be implemented into the CL.

Too much binder leads to a performance decrease since it is blocking the transport of the educts and products through the layer. A well-designed catalyst layer usually has an amount of about 10-40 wt% binder.

The choice of the solvent on the other hand plays an important role for spray coating and the structure of the CL. The solvent is the carrying media in which the catalyst and the binder need to be  homogeneously dispersed to allow spraying them onto the electrodes at which the reactions of the ECO2Fuel system will occur.

The ink needs to have a viscosity of maximum 100 mPas, so it can be atomized (sprayed). Isopropanol with a viscosity of 2.4 mPas is well-suited to serve here as a solvent that can easily evaporate during the coating process without applying high temperatures that could damage the membrane or ionomer.

This property allows achieving homogeneous distribution of the catalyst and the binder in the CL, which is critical for achieving high performances in the ECO2Fuel System.

Additionally, surfactants will be added to the ink to increase its stability. Monitoring the stability is done with Dynamic and Electrophoretic Light Scattering (DLS and ELS) and just observing the sedimentation of particles over time inside the catalyst ink.