An analytical model for the velocity and gas fraction profiles near gas-evolving electrodes

Understanding multiphase flow close to the electrode surface is crucial to the design of electrolyzers, such as alkaline water electrolyzers for the production of green hydrogen. Vertical electrodes develop a narrow gas plume near their surface. We apply the integral method to the mixture model. Considering both exponentially varying and step-function gas fraction profiles, we derive analytical relations for plume thickness, velocity profile, and gas fraction near the electrode as a function of height and current density. We verify these analytical relations with the numerical solutions obtained using two-dimensional mixture model simulations. We find that for low gas fractions, the plume thickness decreases with an increase in current density for an exponentially varying gas fraction profile. In contrast, the plume thickness increases with increasing current density at high gas fractions for an approximately step-function-shaped gas fraction profile, in agreement with experiments from the literature.

A. Rajora, J.W. Haverkort

Inhomogeneities in the Catholyte Channel Limit the Upscaling of CO2 Flow Electrolysers

The use of gas diffusion electrodes that supply gaseous CO2 directly to the catalyst layer has greatly improved the performance of electrochemical CO2 conversion. However, reports of high current densities and Faradaic efficiencies primarily come from small lab scale electrolysers. Such electrolysers typically have a geometric area of 5 cm2, while an industrial electrolyser would require an area closer to 1 m2. The difference in scales means that many limitations that manifest only for larger electrolysers are not captured in lab scale setups. We develop a 2D computational model of both a lab scale and upscaled CO2 electrolyser to determine performance limitations at larger scales and how they compare to the performance limitations observed at the lab scale. We find that for the same current density larger electrolysers exhibit much greater reaction and local environment inhomogeneity. Increasing catalyst layer pH and widening concentration boundary layers of the KHCO3 buffer in the electrolyte channel lead to higher activation overpotential and increased parasitic loss of reactant CO2 to the electrolyte solution. We show that a variable catalyst loading along the direction of the flow channel may improve the economics of a large scale CO2 electrolyser.

J.W. Blake, V. Konderla, L.M. Baumgartner, D.A. Vermaas, J.T. Padding and J.W. Haverkort

Revisiting the Electrochemical Nitrogen Reduction on Molybdenum and Iron Carbides: Promising Catalysts or False Positives?

The electrochemical dinitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) has recently gained much interest as it can potentially produce ammonia from renewable intermittent electricity and replace the Haber–Bosch process. Previous literature studies report Fe- and Mo-carbides as promising electrocatalysts for the NRR with activities higher than other metals. However, recent understanding of extraneous ammonia and nitrogen oxide contaminations have challenged previously published results. Here, we critically assess the NRR performance of several Fe- and Mo-carbides reported as promising by implementing a strict experimental protocol to minimize the effect of impurities. The successful synthesis of α-Mo2C decorated carbon nanosheets, α-Mo2C nanoparticles, θ-Fe3C nanoparticles, and χ-Fe5C2 nanoparticles was confirmed by X-ray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray photoelectron and Mössbauer spectroscopy. After performing NRR chronoamperometric tests with the synthesized materials, the ammonia concentrations varied between 37 and 124 ppb and are in close proximity with the estimated ammonia background level. Notwithstanding the impracticality of these extremely low ammonia yields, the observed ammonia did not originate from the electrochemical nitrogen reduction but from unavoidable extraneous ammonia and NOx impurities. These findings are in contradiction with earlier literature studies and show that these carbide materials are not active for the NRR under the employed conditions. This further emphasizes the importance of a strict protocol in order to distinguish between a promising NRR catalyst and a false positive.

Boaz Izelaar, Davide Ripepi, Simone Asperti, A. Iulian Dugulan, Ruud W.A. Hendrikx, Amarante J. Böttger, Fokko M. Mulder and Ruud Kortlever

Unravelling the Effect of Activators used in The Synthesis of Biomass-Derived Carbon Electrocatalysts on the Electrocatalytic Performance for CO2 Reduction

N-doped carbon materials can be efficient and cost-effective catalysts for the electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR). Activators are often used in the synthesis process to increase the specific surface area and porosity of these carbon materials. However, owing to the diversity of activators and the differences in physicochemical properties that these activators induce, the influence of activators used for the synthesis of N-doped carbon catalysts on their electrochemical performance is unclear. In this study, a series of bagasse-derived N-doped carbon catalysts is prepared with the assistance of different activators to understand the correlation between activators, physicochemical properties, and electrocatalytic performance for the CO2RR. The properties of N-doped carbon catalysts, such as N-doping content, microstructure, and degree of graphitization, are found to be highly dependent on the type of activator applied in the synthesis procedure. Moreover, the overall CO2RR performance of the synthesized electrocatalysts is not determined only by the N-doping level and the configuration of the N-dopant, but rather by the overall surface chemistry, where the porosity and the degree of graphitization are jointly responsible for significant differences in CO2RR performance.

Shilong Fu, Ming Li, Simone Asperti, Prof. Dr. Wiebren de Jong and Dr. Ruud Kortlever

Earlier publications