Overpotential and Selectivity in the Electrochemical Conversion of CO2 into Fuels


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. While much attention is focused on cutting CO2 by transitioning to clean energy sources, another important way to reduce the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere is to convert CO2 and carbon monoxide into useful products.

Peterson and colleagues are tackling one of the biggest barriers to the capture and reuse of carbon; devising cost-effective catalysts to drive the electrochemical reactions. Better catalysts would make it easier and less energy-intensive to transform CO and CO2 into products like hydro-carbon fuels.

Market Opportunity

The engineering of chemical reactions through catalysis powers nearly all chemicals produced in both the synthetic and biological world, and Peterson’s specialty, heterogeneous catalytic reactions that involve reactions at an interface, are used to create most of the commodity chemicals and fuels used today.

The ability to create catalysts that would help us efficiently capture and reuse carbon would be a boon for slowing anthropogenic climate change and an economic windfall to boot. Carbon dioxide that otherwise would enter the atmosphere and remain there for decades, trapping heat as a long-lived greenhouse gas, would instead be use for hydrocarbons to create new fuels or a variety of other useful products. This method could lead to ways to make the production of renewable biomass fuels (ethanol and biodiesel) and fossil fuels a carbon-neutral enterprise, reducing fossil fuel demand and CO2 emissions.

Innovation and Meaningful Advantages

The major obstacle preventing the efficient conversion of carbon dioxide into energy-bearing products is lack of catalysts with satisfactory activity at low overpotentials (which happens when a reaction requires more energy than is thermodynamically expected to drive a reaction).

To overcome these problems, Peterson has created catalysts for converting CO2 to hydrocarbons that use carbides. Peterson employs various combin-ations of molybdenum, titanium, tungsten, iron, and tantalum, along with various carbon nano-structures and substrates to make the process more efficient. These carbide catalysts are then exposed to a source of CO2 or CO to supply the carbon needed for the reaction.

Collaboration Opportunity

We are seeking an investment opportunity to further develop this innovative technology.

Principal Investigator

Andrew Peterson PhD
Associate Professor of Engineering
Brown University

IP Information

US Utility US10226759, Issued March 12, 2019


Victoria Campbell, PhD
Director of Business Development
Brown Tech ID 2313
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Andrew Peterson
Yin Jia Zhang
Seok ki Kim
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