Improved electrochemical reactor performance through 3D printing

Working with Stanford University and Total American Services, an oil and gas company, researchers and their staff at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used 3D printing to quickly improve electrochemical reactors for converting CO2. We have shown that it can be more efficient while broadening the basic understanding of the response.Credit: Illustration by Veronica Chen / LLNL

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and their staff use the power of 3D printing to improve the performance of electrochemical reactors for converting carbon dioxide (CO). 2) For useful energy sources, chemicals, raw materials.

Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Stanford University and oil and gas company Total American Services, LLNL researchers and their team are demonstrating for the first time that 3D printing can be used to rapidly power CO’s electrochemical reactors . Did.2 Increase efficiency while expanding your basic understanding of transformations and reactions.

In a paper published by a journal of energy and environmental sciences, the research team proves that 3D printing reactor components can produce higher yields of desirable fuels and raw materials such as ethanol and ethylene through “steam-fed” electrochemical systems, whereby the process will be accelerated building state-of-the-art reactors. Did. Weeks to days or hours.

“The real benefit of 3D printing is that you can literally have an idea, design a new reactor, print it, and test it in 24 hours,” said Jeremy Fe, co-lead author and LLNL scientist. Says the star. “This opens the door to optimizing reactor design in ways that are not available in many traditional reactors. We were able to show that the design was repeated iteratively quickly. Not only the time but also the manufacturing costs of these reactors can be reduced by orders of magnitude. “

While much of the research on electrochemical reactors over the past few decades has focused on the catalysts and materials involved in electrochemical reactions, researchers stated that the components of the reactor have largely been overlooked. Instead of engaging in the crowded areas of catalyst discovery, the LLNL team will use 3D printing to examine the environment around the catalyst and control the catalyst, according to Eric Duoss, co-principal researcher and research engineer at the LLNL. Decided to find a better way.

“We decided this was our niche because what is happening near the catalyst and its impact on the overall reaction has not been fully studied,” said Duos. “The community has never used the power of 3D printing to accelerate this design-build-test cycle. Our team has a pretty common non-irritating catalyst that people have been using for a long time. I went through some very quick discoveries. By understanding and managing the local environment, I have been able to achieve record-breaking or almost record-like properties and performances. “

The team used micro-stereolithography projected at the LLNL and other photochemically based 3D printing processes to design and print a new housing for the reactor and quickly iterate over to optimize the shape of the design. This has improved the overall mass transport for reaction feed and product removal. Surrounding catalyst. The reactor was sent to Stanford, where teams from both agencies assessed the performance.

Under neutral conditions, the team was able to achieve high yields of ethylene (3.67%) and record levels of ethanol (3.66%).

“By combining electrochemical potential and inflow and adding the reactor design as a variable, we were able to achieve high performance goals while also exploring the limits of model-based mass transfer.” Stanford, co-lead author. Daniel Coral candidate who is also a fellow of the LLNL Academic Cooperation Program. “With the help of advanced manufacturing, we designed and built short-range reactors and quickly implemented changes to the system design to achieve high yields for ethylene and ethanol in neutral pH electrolytes. Bottom.”

Researchers say 3D-printed reactors small enough to fit in the palm of your hand could eventually stack up into a refrigerator-sized electrolytic cell system, a destructive and commercialized technology. Rice field. Such CO2 electrolyte cell systems significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions (or even with negative emission technology) compared to many traditional chemical processes that use fossil reactants. CO2 electrolyte cells could also serve as a reliable source of future materials and fuels, the researchers added.

“Our vision is to use the best catalysts that are scientifically developed and to develop reactors that make the most of these catalysts,” said LLNL’s Energy and Climate Security Group. Says Sara Baker, co-author and co-research director. Leader. “This study shows that the performance, activity and selectivity of the catalyst are determined by the entire reactor system around the catalyst. The ability to print the reactor and change its function, e.g. B. CO.2 The flow path and reactor volume provided quick feedback to answer hypotheses about the impact on reactor design. We also believe that this feedback will help scale the reactor which, when scaled, can change performance. “

Roger Ains, Chief Scientist of LLNL’s Energy Program, said: “Additive manufacturing gives us the opportunity to dramatically reduce the time to commercial application.”

It’s not just about demonstrating that 3D printing can be used effectively to build a nuclear reactor for CO.2. LLNL researchers said the paper represents an opportunity to introduce a “paradigm shift” approach to the design of future reactors and rethink the way chemical reactions work.

Duos, who heads LLNL’s Engineering Materials Manufacturing Center, said the team under CRADA with Stanford University and Total American Services are looking to further improve performance, optimize designs through computer modeling, and extend reactor life. He said he did. You want to work with industry to 3D print other reactor components like electrodes to improve peak performance and expand the technology.

“I gave this first demonstration of what you can do with CO2. It’s a nuclear reactor, but the potential impact is much greater, ”said Duos. “This approach accelerates the development of scientific discoveries and technologies, fills the ‘valley of death’ and hopes that these technologies will eventually be commercialized. Our climate and carbon challenges are immeasurable and we don’t have time to wait, so we need such creative and destructive solutions. “

Reference: “Advanced Manufacturing for the Electrosynthesis of Fuels and Chemicals from CO2 Daniel Coral, Jeremy T. Fester, Sadaf Sobani, Joshua R. Deot, Don Eun Lee, Andrew A. Wong, Julie Hamilton, Victor A. Beck, Amitaba Sirker, Christopher Hahn, Thomas F. Jaramiro, Sarah E Baker and Eric B. Duos, February 15, 2021 Energy and environmental sciences ..
DOI: 10.1039 / D0EE03679J

This work was funded by a laboratory-led R&D program and Total American Services.

Co-authors are Sadaf Sobhani, Julie Hamilton, Victor Beck, Andrew Wong, Josh DeOtte and Christopher Hahn from the LLNL. Don Eun Lee and Thomas Jaramiro from Stanford University. Amitaba Circer of the Total American Service.

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