Electrochemical CO2 Conversion

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Electrochemical CO2 conversion is a promising technology that utilizes electricity to drive chemical reactions, transforming carbon dioxide (CO2) into valuable products like fuels, chemicals, and building materials. This process offers a sustainable pathway to address climate change by capturing and utilizing CO2 emissions while creating a more circular and resource-efficient economy.

Impact on climate action

Electrochemical CO2 Conversion innovatively transforms carbon dioxide into valuable products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By employing this technology on an industrial scale, it accelerates the transition to a low-carbon economy. Its potential lies in mitigating climate change by converting a pollutant into valuable resources, fostering sustainability and climate action.


Electrochemical CO2 conversion relies on the principles of electrochemistry:

  • Electrolysis: Similar to water electrolysis, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, this process uses an electrochemical cell with electrodes immersed in an electrolyte solution.
  • CO2 Reduction Reaction: When an electrical current is passed through the cell, CO2 molecules at the cathode (negative electrode) undergo reduction, gaining electrons and transforming into various carbon-based products.
  • Product Selectivity: The type of product formed depends on the catalyst used at the cathode, the applied voltage, and the composition of the electrolyte.

TRL : 4-7 (depending on the specific product and technology)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Novel Catalyst Development: Research focuses on developing highly efficient and selective catalysts for the CO2 reduction reaction. Advancements in nanomaterials, metal-organic frameworks, and enzyme-based catalysts are showing promising results.
  • Electrolyte Optimization: Scientists are exploring new electrolyte materials and compositions that enhance reaction efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and improve the stability and lifespan of the electrochemical cell.
  • Reactor Design: Optimizing the design of the electrochemical reactor, including the electrode configuration and flow patterns, is crucial for improving reaction rates, product selectivity, and overall system efficiency.
  • Integration with Renewable Energy: Coupling electrochemical CO2 conversion systems with renewable energy sources like solar and wind power can ensure a truly sustainable and carbon-negative process.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Catalyst Innovation for CO2 Reduction
  • Electrolyte Enhancement Strategies
  • Advanced Electrochemical Reactor Design
  • Nanomaterials for CO2 Conversion
  • Metal-Organic Framework Catalysts
  • Electrolyte Composition Optimization
  • Reactor Configuration Optimization
  • Flow Pattern Engineering
  • Renewable Energy Integration
  • Solar-Powered CO2 Conversion Systems
  • Ethanol Production Innovations
  • Carbon-Neutral Chemical Manufacturing
  • Circular Economy Solutions
  • Resource-Efficient CO2 Utilization
  • Carbon-Negative Processes

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Opus 12:
    • Technology Focus: Opus 12 specializes in electrochemical CO2 conversion technologies. They likely develop systems that use renewable electricity to convert CO2 into valuable products, such as fuels or chemicals.
    • Uniqueness: Opus 12 might stand out for its innovative approach to CO2 utilization, potentially offering scalable and cost-effective solutions that contribute to carbon capture and utilization efforts.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could target industries looking to reduce their carbon footprint, such as energy, transportation, and manufacturing. Additionally, they may partner with research institutions and governments focused on climate change mitigation.
  • Electrochaea:
    • Technology Focus: Electrochaea specializes in microbial electrochemical technologies, particularly for the biological conversion of CO2 and hydrogen into methane, a renewable natural gas.
    • Uniqueness: Electrochaea’s technology may be unique in its ability to mimic and accelerate natural processes, offering a sustainable and scalable solution for renewable energy storage and carbon utilization.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could be of interest to industries seeking renewable energy solutions, such as utilities, grid operators, and energy-intensive manufacturing sectors. Additionally, they may target regions with abundant renewable energy resources for methane production.
  • Dioxide Materials:
    • Technology Focus: Dioxide Materials focuses on electrochemical CO2 reduction technologies, with a focus on developing catalysts and systems for converting CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels.
    • Uniqueness: Dioxide Materials may stand out for its expertise in catalyst development and system integration, potentially offering highly efficient and selective CO2 conversion solutions.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could be targeted at industries seeking sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels and petrochemicals, such as the chemical, pharmaceutical, and renewable energy sectors. Additionally, they may collaborate with academic and research institutions to advance CO2 utilization technologies.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Stanford are pioneering advancements in electrochemical CO2 conversion technology by developing novel catalysts and reactor designs. They are exploring the use of nanostructured materials and innovative electrode architectures to enhance the efficiency and selectivity of CO2 conversion reactions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s research distinguishes itself through its interdisciplinary approach, combining expertise in materials science, electrochemistry, and chemical engineering. They are leveraging insights from fundamental studies of reaction mechanisms to design catalysts with unprecedented activity and stability for CO2 conversion.
    • End-use Applications: The technology developed at Stanford has promising applications in renewable energy storage, carbon-neutral fuel production, and chemical synthesis. By converting CO2 into value-added products such as methane, ethylene, or formic acid, it offers a sustainable pathway for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech):
    • Technology Enhancements: Caltech researchers are pushing the boundaries of electrochemical CO2 conversion through innovations in catalyst design and reactor engineering. They are developing high-performance catalysts based on earth-abundant elements and exploring novel electrode architectures to improve mass transport and reaction kinetics.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Caltech’s research stands out for its emphasis on fundamental understanding and predictive modeling of electrochemical CO2 conversion processes. They are integrating computational simulations with experimental studies to elucidate the underlying mechanisms and optimize catalyst performance under realistic operating conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The advancements made at Caltech have potential applications in renewable energy storage, carbon capture and utilization, and sustainable chemical manufacturing. By converting CO2 into valuable products such as carbon monoxide or methanol, it offers a scalable and economically viable approach to reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
  • Imperial College London:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Imperial College London are leading innovations in electrochemical CO2 conversion technology by tailoring catalyst properties and reactor configurations for enhanced performance. They are exploring the use of advanced characterization techniques and high-throughput screening methods to identify new catalyst materials with superior activity and selectivity.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Imperial College’s research is characterized by its focus on scalability and commercialization of electrochemical CO2 conversion technologies. They are collaborating with industry partners to develop prototype systems and evaluate their feasibility for large-scale deployment in industrial settings.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Imperial College has diverse applications in energy storage, chemical synthesis, and environmental remediation. By converting CO2 into valuable products such as syngas or carbon-neutral fuels, it offers a promising pathway for reducing carbon emissions and achieving climate targets while creating new economic opportunities.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While large-scale commercial implementation is still underway, promising pilot projects and partnerships are showcasing the viability of electrochemical CO2 conversion:

  • Opus 12: Has partnered with Shell and other companies to demonstrate the feasibility of their technology for producing chemicals from CO2.
  • Electrochaea: Has built a commercial-scale demonstration plant in Denmark that produces renewable methane from CO2.