The project, supported by both Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures (AITF) and CFREF, involves the conversion of CO2 to useful chemicals and fuels using high temperature solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOECs), devices that run in the opposite direction of solid oxide fuel cells but involve similar concepts, materials challenges, and operating conditions to achieve Power to Fuels™. These devices can run on (and thus store) grid or distributed electricity produced from conventional hydrocarbons or from renewable electricity, converting CO2 to fuels that can be used to generate energy on demand. Energy storage through the conversion of CO2 to fuels would be secure for long periods of time.
The AITF project will be focused on using multiple novel nano-engineering and processing approaches to optimize and improve the existing catalytic electrode materials we developed for use in SOECs operated at 800 °C with a focus on:
1) The conversion of CO2, in pure form or mixed with steam, forming CO+H2 (syngas) at one electrode and pure CO2 at the other.
2) Carrying out critical Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) of these new material preparation routes.
The focus of the CFREF UCalgary-UAlberta collaborative project is to generate SOEC catalysts and cells that can operate at lower temperatures, have passed an LCA evaluation, and have been incorporated in cells sufficiently large to demonstrate to potential industry and government partners. The CFREF UC/UA research will also focus on optimization of the oxygen evolving electrode and developing a much deeper understanding of the reaction mechanisms and the catalyst surfaces through DFT analyses and synchrotron studies, directions that had to be left out of the AITF application due to their funding constraints. Therefore, we will be continuously building on the work being done in the core AITF project through the CFREF UCalgary/UAlberta collaboration, extending the work further, while also co-leveraging both the AITF and CFREF support.