SBIR Phase I: Carbon Neutral Renewable Liquid Hydrocarbon Fuel Production System

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Solitcitation Year:
Solicitation Number:
NSF 09-541
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Small Business Information
Sustainable Innovations
114 Harvest Lane, Glastonbury, CT, 06033
Hubzone Owned:
Woman Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Principal Investigator
 Trent Molter
 (860) 652-9690
Business Contact
 Trent Molter
Title: PhD
Phone: (860) 652-9690
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project seeks to improve the conversion efficiency of an electrochemical process that produces liquid organic fuels from carbon dioxide using a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) cell. The work leverages extensive university research wherein fundamental studies have demonstrated the conversion of CO2 to various organic products, but at low Faradaic efficiencies caused by poor mass transport at the cathode. Our research will target increasing the CO2 pressure, and hence its availability to support the cathode reaction, to improve these efficiencies, as well as modifying cathode materials and structures to better support the electrochemical reaction. Using a novel, high pressure PEM cell, electro-reduction studies will be conducted at pressures greater than 800 psi with a goal of achieving a Faradaic efficiency of >90% to hydrocarbons such as methanol at economically viable current densities (>500 mA/cm2). This will be achieved through careful experimentation using a high-pressure laboratory system to facilitate operation of this PEM cell. Analytical chemistry protocols will be developed and implemented to identify and quantify the mix of reaction products. From these data we will calculate the efficiency at which current, passed through the cell, is converted to desirable liquid organic products. The broader/commercial impact of this project is its outcome, if success, will address the concern about the increasing level of carbon dioxide. Many believe that there is a connection between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, driving societal interest in developing carbon-neutral fuel solutions. The electrochemical CO2 reduction system being investigated in this program projects to cost-competitively produce methanol from CO2 and electricity in a single electrochemical reactor. The methanol can be used either as a fuel with a worldwide market of >5 M tonne/yr, or as a commodity chemical, with a worldwide market of ~50 M tonne/yr. This work will develop a better understanding of the science of CO2 electro-reduction reaction, and effect a translation of this technology from laboratory single electrode studies to a high-pressure cell architecture that can provide the basis for a commercial product. This system offers the potential to produce methanol fuel from clean, renewable electricity, provides a means of transforming domestic coal to liquid fuels, offers a pathway for the capture and reuse of CO2 released from industrial processes, and can be used for closed environment life support.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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