Electrochemical CO2 Conversion for Low Carbon Chemicals

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Electrochemical CO2 conversion is a promising technology that uses electricity to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into valuable chemicals and fuels. This process offers a sustainable pathway to utilize captured CO2, contributing to a circular carbon economy and mitigating climate change.

Impact on climate action

Electrochemical CO2 Conversion enhances climate action by converting carbon dioxide into valuable low-carbon chemicals and fertilizers. This innovation mitigates CO2 emissions while producing useful products, contributing to a sustainable, circular economy. It reduces reliance on traditional, high-emission chemical processes, fostering a more eco-friendly industrial landscape.


  • Electrochemistry: Electrochemical CO2 conversion utilizes electrochemical cells, where CO2 is reduced at the cathode (negative electrode) using electrons supplied by an external power source. The reaction products can be a variety of chemicals and fuels depending on the catalyst and reaction conditions.
  • Catalyst Design: Highly selective and efficient catalysts are crucial for controlling the reaction pathways and producing desired products. Researchers are exploring various catalyst materials, including metals, metal oxides, and carbon-based materials.
  • Renewable Energy Integration: To ensure sustainability, electrochemical CO2 conversion should be powered by renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. This aligns with the overall goal of decarbonizing the chemical industry.
  • Electrolyte Optimization: The electrolyte plays a critical role in facilitating ion transport and influencing reaction kinetics. Researchers are investigating different electrolyte compositions to improve the efficiency and selectivity of the process.

TRL : 5-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Novel Catalyst Development: Scientists are developing new catalyst materials and designs to improve the efficiency, selectivity, and durability of electrochemical CO2 conversion. This includes exploring nanostructured materials, single-atom catalysts, and novel catalyst supports.
  • Gas Diffusion Electrodes: These electrodes facilitate efficient CO2 mass transport to the catalyst surface, enhancing reaction rates and improving overall system performance.
  • High-Pressure Electrolysis: Operating electrochemical cells at elevated pressures can enhance CO2 solubility and improve product selectivity.
  • Artificial Photosynthesis: Researchers are investigating the integration of electrochemical CO2 conversion with artificial photosynthesis, using sunlight to drive both CO2 capture and conversion into valuable products.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Electrochemical Reactor Engineering
  • Catalyst Discovery and Optimization
  • Electrolyte Engineering for Efficiency
  • Nanomaterial Catalyst Innovations
  • Single-Atom Catalyst Development
  • Advanced Catalyst Support Systems
  • Gas Diffusion Electrode Design
  • High-Pressure Electrolysis Techniques
  • Enhanced CO2 Solubility Methods
  • Product Selectivity Enhancement
  • Artificial Photosynthesis Integration
  • Solar-Powered Electrochemical Systems
  • Wind-Powered Electrochemical Systems
  • CO2 Capture and Conversion Synergy
  • Carbon-Neutral Chemical Production
  • Sustainable Fuel Synthesis
  • Electrochemical Process Scaling
  • Industrial Applications of CO2 Conversion

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Twelve:
    • Technology Focus: Twelve specializes in electrochemical CO2 conversion technologies, which involve using electricity to convert carbon dioxide into valuable products such as fuels or chemicals. Their technology likely employs catalysts and electrodes to facilitate these conversion reactions.
    • Uniqueness: Twelve may distinguish itself through innovative catalyst designs, electrochemical reactor configurations, or process optimizations that enhance the efficiency and selectivity of CO2 conversion. Their approach might also prioritize scalability and cost-effectiveness.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could appeal to industries seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional fuel production, such as transportation, energy generation, and chemical manufacturing.
  • Opus 12:
    • Technology Focus: Opus 12 also focuses on electrochemical CO2 conversion, with a specific emphasis on converting carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals and fuels using renewable electricity. Their technology likely involves advanced catalysts and reactor systems to drive efficient conversion reactions.
    • Uniqueness: Opus 12 may stand out for its novel catalyst materials or reactor designs that enable high conversion rates and product selectivity. Additionally, they might offer integrated solutions that allow for the direct utilization of renewable energy sources in CO2 conversion processes.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments may include industries seeking to decarbonize their operations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as renewable energy companies, chemical manufacturers, and sustainable transportation providers.
  • Electrochaea:
    • Technology Focus: Electrochaea specializes in biological methanation, a process that involves using microorganisms to convert CO2 and hydrogen into renewable methane. Their technology likely combines electrochemical and microbial processes to achieve efficient and scalable methane production.
    • Uniqueness: Electrochaea may differentiate itself through its unique microbial catalysts or reactor configurations optimized for biological methanation. Their approach could offer advantages in terms of process stability, scalability, and biogas purity.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could be particularly appealing to industries seeking renewable energy storage solutions or biogas upgrading technologies, such as utilities, waste management companies, and agricultural operations.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Stanford researchers are pioneering advancements in electrochemical CO2 conversion technology by developing highly efficient catalysts and reactor designs. They are exploring novel electrode materials and electrolyte compositions to enhance the selectivity and conversion efficiency of CO2 into value-added chemicals and fertilizers.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s approach integrates fundamental electrochemical principles with materials science and catalysis to overcome the challenges associated with CO2 electroreduction. They are leveraging insights from computational modeling and experimental validation to design catalysts with tailored properties for specific chemical transformations.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Stanford has implications for sustainable chemical synthesis, carbon capture and utilization, and renewable energy storage. By converting CO2 into low-carbon chemicals and fertilizers, companies can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while producing valuable products for various industrial applications.
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech):
    • Technology Enhancements: Caltech researchers are advancing electrochemical CO2 conversion technology by developing scalable reactor systems and process optimization strategies. They are investigating novel reactor architectures and operational parameters to maximize the yield and selectivity of targeted chemical products.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Caltech’s research focuses on understanding the fundamental mechanisms underlying CO2 electroreduction and designing catalysts with improved activity and stability. They are exploring new materials and surface engineering techniques to enhance the performance of electrocatalysts under realistic operating conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Caltech has applications in renewable energy storage, sustainable agriculture, and carbon-neutral chemical manufacturing. By utilizing renewable electricity sources to convert CO2 into chemicals and fertilizers, companies can contribute to decarbonizing the economy and achieving climate mitigation goals.
  • Imperial College London:
    • Technology Enhancements: Imperial College researchers are at the forefront of developing advanced reactor systems and electrochemical engineering processes for CO2 conversion. They are exploring innovative reactor designs, such as flow reactors and membrane-electrode assemblies, to improve mass transport and reaction kinetics.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Imperial College’s research integrates electrochemical engineering with systems optimization and life cycle analysis to assess the environmental and economic sustainability of CO2 conversion technologies. They are investigating the techno-economic feasibility and scalability of electrochemical CO2 conversion for large-scale deployment.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Imperial College has implications for greenhouse gas mitigation, resource recovery, and circular economy initiatives. By converting CO2 into chemicals and fertilizers using renewable energy sources, companies can reduce their carbon footprint and create value from waste streams, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient economy.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While still largely in the pilot and demonstration phase, electrochemical CO2 conversion is attracting significant investment and is on the path toward commercialization.