From CO2 to plastics and laptops

Next to the generating power and heat, fossil fuels (hydrocarbons) also serve as feedstocks in all kinds of industrial processes, ultimately providing society with plastics, laptops, televisions – tangible things that can’t be made with green electricity alone. CO2 conversion by means of electrocatalysis is where renewable energy meets renewable feedstocks meets CO2 emission reduction.

‘Our world is based on carbon,’ says Tom Burdyny. ‘And the only way to replace carbon renewably is by converting captured CO2.’ One way to do that is the so-called reverse water-gas-shift reaction, in which CO2 and hydrogen are converted into carbon monoxide and water. You can then use carbon monoxide and hydrogen to create a large variety of hydrocarbons and compounds containing oxygen. But this is not as good a solution as industry would want. Electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 is a promising alternative in that it allows the direct production of multi-carbon compounds such as ethylene. It is also a process that takes place at a much lower temperature, allowing it to be turned on and off. Though certainly promising, Tom is careful about raising expectations: ‘CO2-electrocatalysis could be better, and we don’t know yet if it’s more viable than the current standard.’

The only way to replace carbon renewably is by converting captured CO2.

Infrared imaging allows us to monitor electrochemical reactions in both time and space.

We want to know the trade-offs of electrocatalysis when considering upstream and downstream processes.

The e-Refinery symposium takes place on March 14 and 15 in Delft. You can read more about the program here. For press requests regarding the symposium, please contact Dave Boomkens at

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