University of St. Andrews

Solid State Protonic Electrosynthesis of Zero Carbon Fuels

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Johnson Matthey EPSRC ICASE 2022

4 year PhD with enhanced stipend

Solid oxide electrolysis cells generate high purity hydrogen from steam at high efficiency using electricity from renewable sources, exploiting thermodynamic benefits of high temperature operation. This has similarly been applied to CO2 reduction.  Solid Protonic Oxide Electrolysis is an attractive alternative as water can be fed into the anode compartment where water is oxidized to yield oxygen and protons to yield hydrogen at the cathode and when CO2 is fed to the cathode it is reduced by electrons and/or hydrogen to yield controlled syngas.  With careful control of composition and processing successful protonic electrolysers can be achieved to deliver both performance and stability, possibly at temperatures down to 300oC.

Previous work has shown that these proton conducting electrolytes (eg Ba(Ce,Y,Zr)O3) can deliver good water gas shift activity  and indeed direct conversion to methane .  Recent work has shown that these materials can be doped with transition metals such Cu and Ni to yield quite intriguing exsolution structures on reduction .  This offers the potential to decorate Water Gas Shift active perovskite surfaces with metallic nanoparticles of eg Cu and/or Ni upon chemical or electrochemical reduction .

In this project we seek to implement such proton electrolysers with exolved electrocatalysts, developing structures that afford thin electrolytes that will allow efficient operation at moderate temperature.  We will target metals with good activity for carbon bond activation and will seek to perform direct electrosynthesis of potential zero carbon fuels.

Further information and informal enquiries may be directed to Professor John Irvine, email:

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Solid State Protonic Electrosynthesis of Zero Carbon Fuels
St Andrews St Andrews, United Kingdom
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