Electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide

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The electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide (ERC) is the conversion of carbon dioxide to more reduced chemical species using electrical energy. The first examples of electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide are from the 19th century, when carbon dioxide was reduced to formic acid using a zinc cathode. Research in this field intensified in the 1980s following the oil embargoes of the 1970s. Electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide represents a possible means of producing chemicals or fuels, making carbon dioxide (CO2) a feedstock.[1][2]

Chemicals from carbon dioxide[edit]

In carbon fixation plants convert carbon dioxide into sugars, from which most other biosynthetic pathways begin. The catalyst responsible for this conversion, RuBisCo, is the most common protein on earth. Some anaerobic organisms employ enzymes to convert CO2 to carbon monoxide, from which fatty acids can be made.[3]

In industry, a few products are made from CO2. These include urea, salicylic acid, methanol, and certain inorganic and organic carbonates.[4] In the laboratory, carbon dioxide is sometimes used to prepare carboxylic acids.


The electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to CO is usually described as:

CO2 + 2 H+ + 2 e → CO + H2O

The potential for this reaction is similar to that for hydrogen evolution in aqueous electrolytes.

Although an electrochemical route to CO (or other chemicals) has not been commercialized, a variety of homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts[5] have been evaluated.[1][2] Many such processes are assumed to operate via the intermediacy of metal carbon dioxide complexes.[6] Generally speaking, the processes developed to date either have poor thermodynamic efficiency (high overpotential), low current efficiency, low selectivity, slow kinetics, and/or poor stability.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jitaru, Maria (2007-10-30). "ELECTROCHEMICAL CARBON DIOXIDE REDUCTION - FUNDAMENTAL AND APPLIED TOPICS (REVIEW)" (PDF). Journal of the University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy 42 (4): 333–344. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  2. ^ a b Gabriele Centi, Siglinda Perathoner "Opportunities and prospects in the chemical recycling of carbon dioxide to fuels" Catalysis Today 148 (2009) 191–205.doi:10.1016/j.cattod.2009.07.075
  3. ^ 1. J. C. Fontecilla-Camps, P. Amara, C. Cavazza, Y. Nicolet and A. Volbeda, "Structure-function relationships of anaerobic gas-processing metalloenzymes", Nature 2009, volume 460, p. 814-822.doi:10.1038/nature08299
  4. ^ Susan Topham, "Carbon Dioxide" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2005, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a05_165
  5. ^ Hori, Y. (2008). "Electrochemical CO2 Reduction on Metal Electrodes". Modern Aspects of Electrochemistry. Modern Aspects of Electrochemistry 42. pp. 89–80. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-49489-0_3. ISBN 978-0-387-49488-3.  edit
  6. ^ Eric E. Benson, Clifford P. Kubiak,* Aaron J. Sathrum and Jonathan M. Smieja "Electrocatalytic and homogeneous approaches to conversion of CO2 to liquid fuels" Chem. Soc. Rev., 2009, vol. 38, pp. 89–99.doi:10.1039/b804323j
  7. ^ Halmann and Steinberg, "Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide Mitigation," Lewis Publishers, 1999. ISBN 1-56670-284-4