Electrochemical CO2 Capture and Conversion

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Electrochemical CO2 capture and conversion integrates two key processes: capture and conversion. It involves using electrochemical methods to capture CO2 from various sources, such as flue gas from power plants or directly from the air. The captured CO2 is then electrochemically converted into useful products, including fuels, chemicals, and building materials, effectively recycling carbon and contributing to a circular economy.

Impact on climate action

The innovation of Electrochemical CO2 Capture and Conversion revolutionizes climate action by efficiently capturing carbon dioxide emissions and converting them into valuable products. This breakthrough technology significantly reduces CO2 levels in the atmosphere, offering a sustainable solution to combat climate change and promoting a greener future for generations to come.


Electrochemical CO2 capture and conversion leverages several key technologies and scientific principles:

  • Electrochemical Cells: Specialized electrochemical cells are designed to capture and convert CO2. These cells contain electrodes and electrolytes that facilitate the electrochemical reactions involved in both capture and conversion processes.
  • CO2 Capture Mechanisms: Electrochemical capture can be achieved through various mechanisms, such as using redox-active materials that selectively bind CO2, or by employing membranes that selectively transport CO2 ions.
  • CO2 Reduction Reactions: Electrochemical conversion utilizes electrocatalysts to drive CO2 reduction reactions, transforming CO2 into valuable products like carbon monoxide (CO), formic acid (HCOOH), methane (CH4), ethylene (C2H4), and ethanol (C2H5OH).
  • Renewable Energy Integration: Electrochemical CO2 capture and conversion can be seamlessly integrated with renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, using the electricity generated to drive the electrochemical processes.

TRL : 4-6 (While showing promising results, electrochemical CO2 capture and conversion is still largely in the research and development phase, with some technologies approaching pilot-scale demonstrations).

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Novel Electrode Materials and Electrocatalysts: Researchers are developing new electrode materials and electrocatalysts with enhanced activity, selectivity, and durability to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of CO2 capture and conversion.
  • Gas Diffusion Electrodes (GDEs): GDEs are specialized electrodes that facilitate efficient gas-liquid-solid contact, enhancing the mass transfer of CO2 and improving the overall performance of electrochemical cells.
  • Solid-State Electrolytes: Replacing liquid electrolytes with solid-state electrolytes can improve the safety, stability, and operating temperature range of electrochemical cells.
  • Artificial Photosynthesis Systems: Researchers are developing artificial photosynthesis systems that mimic natural processes, using sunlight to convert CO2 and water into valuable products.
  • Integration with CO2 Utilization Technologies: Integrating electrochemical CO2 conversion with downstream CO2 utilization technologies, such as producing synthetic fuels or building materials, can create a more integrated and economically viable approach.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Redox-Active Material Innovation
  • Selective CO2 Binding Mechanisms
  • Membrane-Based CO2 Capture Technologies
  • Electrocatalyst Development for CO2 Reduction
  • Renewable Energy Integration Strategies
  • Advanced Electrochemical Cell Design
  • Enhanced Electrode Materials
  • Selective Gas Diffusion Electrodes (GDEs)
  • Solid-State Electrolyte Innovations
  • Artificial Photosynthesis Systems
  • Solar-Powered CO2 Conversion
  • Wind-Powered CO2 Conversion
  • Efficient CO2 Mass Transfer Methods
  • Durability Enhancement Strategies
  • Safety Improvements in Electrochemical Cells
  • Temperature Range Expansion in Electrochemical Cells
  • Sunlight-Driven CO2 Conversion
  • Water-Based CO2 Conversion Technologies

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Twelve:
    • Technology Focus: Twelve likely specializes in electrochemical CO2 capture and conversion technologies. Their approach might involve using electricity to transform CO2 into value-added products or fuels.
    • Uniqueness: Twelve’s uniqueness could lie in its innovative electrochemical processes, potentially offering higher efficiency and selectivity compared to traditional methods of CO2 capture and conversion.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could be targeted towards industries seeking to reduce their carbon footprint, such as power generation, transportation, and manufacturing, as well as those interested in producing sustainable fuels and chemicals.
  • Opus 12:
    • Technology Focus: Opus 12 is known for its electrochemical CO2 conversion technology, which aims to convert CO2 emissions into valuable products, such as fuels or chemicals, using renewable energy sources.
    • Uniqueness: Opus 12’s uniqueness might stem from its focus on modularity and scalability, allowing for flexible deployment in various industrial settings. They might also differentiate themselves through their selection of catalysts and reaction conditions optimized for efficiency and product yield.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could appeal to industries seeking to decarbonize their operations, such as energy-intensive manufacturing, renewable energy, and chemical production, as well as those interested in circular economy practices.
  • Electrochaea:
    • Technology Focus: Electrochaea specializes in microbial electrolysis processes for converting CO2 and renewable electricity into methane, a valuable renewable natural gas.
    • Uniqueness: Electrochaea’s uniqueness lies in its bioelectrochemical approach, leveraging naturally occurring microorganisms to catalyze CO2 conversion into methane. This approach offers the potential for efficient and sustainable gas production.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could be targeted towards industries requiring renewable energy storage solutions, such as utilities, grid operators, and industries with intermittent energy sources like solar and wind, as well as those seeking to decarbonize their natural gas supply chains.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Stanford University are at the forefront of developing electrochemical processes for the capture and conversion of CO2. They are advancing the design of electrochemical cells and catalysts to enhance the efficiency and selectivity of CO2 capture and conversion reactions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s approach involves the development of novel electrocatalysts with high activity and stability for CO2 reduction reactions. They are also exploring integrated systems that combine CO2 capture with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to achieve carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative processes.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Stanford University has implications for various sectors, including energy, chemicals, and transportation. Electrochemical CO2 conversion technologies could enable the production of valuable chemicals and fuels from CO2, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the transition to a sustainable energy economy.
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech):
    • Technology Enhancements: Caltech researchers are pushing the boundaries of electrochemical CO2 capture and conversion by developing innovative materials and reactor designs. They are investigating new electrode materials, electrolytes, and reactor configurations to improve the performance and scalability of electrochemical CO2 conversion systems.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Caltech’s research includes fundamental studies of electrochemical CO2 reduction mechanisms and kinetics, providing insights into the design of efficient catalysts and reaction pathways. They are also exploring synergistic approaches that combine electrochemical CO2 capture with other carbon capture and utilization technologies.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Caltech has potential applications in carbon-neutral fuel production, chemical synthesis, and carbon sequestration. By converting CO2 into valuable products such as methane, ethylene, or formic acid, electrochemical CO2 conversion technologies could help mitigate climate change while creating economic value from CO2 emissions.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are developing advanced electrochemical systems for the capture and conversion of CO2 with high efficiency and selectivity. They are exploring novel electrode materials, electrocatalysts, and reactor designs to optimize the performance of electrochemical CO2 conversion processes.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s approach includes the integration of electrochemical CO2 capture with renewable energy sources and energy storage technologies. They are investigating the use of intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to power electrochemical CO2 conversion reactions, enabling carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative processes.
    • End-use Applications: The research at MIT spans a wide range of applications, including sustainable fuel production, chemical synthesis, and carbon sequestration. Electrochemical CO2 conversion technologies developed at MIT could play a crucial role in decarbonizing industrial processes and transportation sectors while enabling the efficient utilization of renewable energy resources.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While large-scale commercial implementation is still a few years away, several companies are piloting and scaling up their electrochemical CO2 capture and conversion technologies:

  • Twelve: Partnering with various companies to demonstrate and commercialize their technology for producing jet fuel and other products from CO2.
  • Opus 12: Scaling up their modular electrochemical reactor for industrial applications.