Molten Oxide Electrolysis

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE) is a groundbreaking technology that promises to revolutionize metal production, particularly for iron and steel, by offering a cleaner, more efficient, and less carbon-intensive alternative to traditional methods. MOE utilizes electricity to directly extract metal from metal oxides in a molten state, bypassing the need for energy-intensive and polluting steps like coking coal and blast furnaces.

Impact on climate action

Molten Oxide Electrolysis, within the realm of Low-Carbon Metals, offers a transformative path. By drastically reducing carbon emissions in metal production, it redefines sustainability standards. This innovation pioneers a cleaner, more efficient method, fostering a significant positive impact on climate action by mitigating industrial carbon footprints and advancing towards a greener future.


  • Electrolysis in Molten Salts: The process involves dissolving metal oxides in a molten salt electrolyte at high temperatures. Then, an electric current is passed through the electrolyte, causing the metal ions to be reduced and deposited at the cathode while oxygen is released at the anode.
  • Inert Anodes: Crucially, MOE utilizes inert anodes made from materials like metal oxides or ceramics, preventing the production of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas released in traditional smelting processes using carbon anodes.
  • Renewable Energy Integration: To achieve truly low-carbon metal production, the electricity used in MOE should be sourced from renewable sources like solar, wind, or hydro power.

TRL : 6-7 (approaching commercialization)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Electrolyte Compositions: Research focuses on developing molten salt electrolytes with improved conductivity, stability, and lower operating temperatures to enhance efficiency and reduce energy consumption.
  • Novel Electrode Materials: Exploring new materials for both inert anodes and cathodes can improve the process efficiency, durability, and cost-effectiveness. This includes research on advanced ceramics, metal alloys, and composite materials.
  • Process Optimization: Optimizing process parameters, such as temperature, current density, and electrolyte composition, is critical for maximizing efficiency, minimizing energy consumption, and controlling the quality of the produced metal.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Electrochemical Metal Extraction
  • Molten Salt Electrolyte Innovation
  • Inert Anode Technology
  • Greenhouse Gas-Free Smelting
  • Renewable Energy Integration
  • Advanced Electrolyte Development
  • Enhanced Conductivity Solutions
  • Stable Molten Salt Formulations
  • Low-Temperature Electrolysis
  • Novel Inert Electrode Materials
  • Energy-Efficient Process Optimization
  • Temperature Control Strategies
  • Current Density Optimization
  • Efficiency Maximization Techniques

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Boston Metal (USA):
    • Technology Focus: Boston Metal specializes in molten oxide electrolysis (MOE), a groundbreaking process for producing metals with lower energy consumption and emissions compared to traditional methods like smelting. MOE involves using electricity to extract metal from its oxide, typically using a molten electrolyte.
    • Uniqueness: Boston Metal’s uniqueness lies in its development and commercialization of MOE technology, offering a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to conventional metal production processes. Their approach has the potential to revolutionize the metal industry by significantly reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption.
    • End-User Segments: Their technology can benefit a wide range of industries that rely on metal production, including automotive, aerospace, construction, and electronics.
  • MIT (USA):
    • Technology Focus: MIT, as a renowned research institution, is likely involved in pioneering research and development efforts related to molten oxide electrolysis. Their focus might be on advancing the fundamental understanding of MOE processes, optimizing electrode materials, or exploring new applications.
    • Uniqueness: MIT’s uniqueness lies in its expertise and resources in cutting-edge research, enabling them to push the boundaries of MOE technology and explore novel approaches and applications. Their contributions could pave the way for future innovations in metal production and related industries.
    • End-User Segments: While MIT itself may not commercialize products, their research could eventually benefit various industries seeking more sustainable and efficient metal production methods.
  • UBC (Canada):
    • Technology Focus: UBC (University of British Columbia) may be engaged in research and development related to molten oxide electrolysis, focusing on aspects such as process optimization, material science, or environmental impact assessment.
    • Uniqueness: UBC’s uniqueness lies in its academic expertise and collaborative research efforts aimed at advancing MOE technology and addressing key challenges in metal production and sustainability. Their interdisciplinary approach could lead to holistic solutions and insights.
    • End-User Segments: Similar to MIT, UBC’s research contributions may not directly target specific end-user segments but could benefit industries seeking more sustainable and efficient metal production methods in the long run.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are pioneering advancements in molten oxide electrolysis by developing novel electrode materials and optimizing process parameters. They are exploring the use of alternative electrolytes and catalysts to improve the efficiency and selectivity of metal extraction from oxides while minimizing energy consumption.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s approach involves a multidisciplinary integration of materials science, electrochemistry, and process engineering to overcome the challenges associated with molten oxide electrolysis. They are investigating new reactor designs and operating conditions to achieve high-purity metal production with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at MIT has implications for various industries, including steelmaking, aluminum production, and renewable energy sectors. By developing low-carbon metal production technologies, companies can reduce their environmental footprint and meet sustainability targets without compromising on performance or cost.
  • University of Cambridge (UK):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Cambridge are focusing on enhancing the kinetics and thermodynamics of molten oxide electrolysis through fundamental studies and computational modeling. They are elucidating the electrochemical mechanisms involved in metal extraction from oxides and identifying strategies to improve process efficiency.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The research at the University of Cambridge is distinguished by its emphasis on understanding the complex interplay between electrode materials, electrolytes, and operating conditions in molten oxide electrolysis systems. They are exploring new materials and reaction pathways to overcome the limitations of conventional metal extraction processes.
    • End-use Applications: The insights gained from the research at the University of Cambridge have implications for the production of high-value metals such as titanium, magnesium, and rare earth elements. These metals are essential for various advanced applications, including aerospace, automotive, and electronics industries, where lightweight and high-performance materials are required.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Technology Enhancements: UC Berkeley researchers are investigating novel approaches to molten oxide electrolysis, including the use of renewable energy sources and waste heat recovery systems to power the electrochemical processes. They are developing integrated systems that combine electrolysis with other industrial processes to maximize resource efficiency and minimize environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The research at UC Berkeley is unique in its holistic approach to low-carbon metal production, considering not only the electrochemical aspects but also the broader socioeconomic and environmental implications. They are exploring strategies to transition towards a circular economy model where metals are recycled and reused to minimize resource depletion and waste generation.
    • End-use Applications: The innovations developed at UC Berkeley have potential applications in the automotive, aerospace, and renewable energy sectors, where lightweight and sustainable materials are in high demand. By producing low-carbon metals using renewable energy sources, companies can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While MOE technology is not yet widely deployed commercially, companies like Boston Metal are making significant progress towards commercialization. Their pilot plants are demonstrating the feasibility of producing low-carbon steel using MOE, and they are working with industry partners to build industrial-scale facilities.