One the major problems of this modern industrialized world is its dependence on fossil fuels for its energy needs. Burning of fossils fuels generates green-house gases which have adverse effects on global climate contributing to global warming. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), carbon dioxide makes up 80 percent of green-house gases emitted in USA. Electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is an approach which uses CO2 emissions to produce other useful hydrocarbons which can be used in many ways.
In this study, primary focus was on optimizing the operating conditions, determining the better catalyst material, and analyzing the reaction products for the process of electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide (ERC). Membrane electrode assemblies (MEA’s) are developed by air bushing the metal particles with a spray gun on to Nafion-212 which is a solid polymer based electrolyte (SPE), to support the electrodes in the electrochemical reactor gas diffusion layers (GDL) are developed using porous carbon paper. Anode was always made using the same material which is platinum but cathode material was changed as it is the working electrode.
The membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is then placed into the electrochemical reactor along with gas diffusion layer (GDL) to assess the performance of the catalyst material by techniques like linear sweep voltammetry and chronoamperometry. Performance of MEA was analyzed at 4 different potentials, 2 different temperatures and for 2 different cathode catalyst materials. The reaction products of the process are analyzed using gas chromatography (GC) which has thermal conductivity detector (TCD) used for detecting hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO) and flame ionization detector (FID) used for detecting hydrocarbons. The experiments performed at 40o C gave the better results when compared with the experiments performed at ambient temperature. Also results suggested that copper oxide cathode catalyst has better durability than platinum-carbon. Maximum faradaic efficiency for methane was 5.3% it was obtained at 2.25V using copper oxide catalyst. Furthermore, experiments must be carried out to make the electrochemical reactor more robust to withstand all the operating conditions like higher potentials and to make it a solar powered reactor.