Electrons to Chemicals (e2chem)
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The e2chem workgroup focuses on the development of new technologies for the synthesis of chemicals and fuels based on electrochemical processes. These processes are ideally powered by current from regenerative sources such as wind and solar power.
Electrochemical processes provide inherent advantages for the storage of energy from sources prone to high fluctuations. The reduction of carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons (Power2Fuels) is a prominent example for electrochemical energy conversion processes. With this technology, the carbon cycle can be closed and thus, a further increase of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere can be stopped. Additionally, the products can be distributed via an existing network which is a great benefit. Another possibility to store energy is the so-called redox flow battery. In contrast to conventional rechargeable batteries, redox flow batteries offer an additional design parameter. The duty and storage capacity can be adjusted separately. One of the major research topics of our institute is the formation of novel membranes for the air-vanadium-battery.
In the cluster of excellence "Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass" (TMFB) many researchers and institutes from the RWTH Aachen University work on the conversion of biomass to biofuels. In so-called biorefineries, renewable resources such as lignocellulosic biomass are depolymerized to chemical building blocks and subsequently synthesized to valuable fuels. Moreover, the combustion properties of novel fuels are characterized and predicted to tailor the production process and the fuel to the requirements of a combustion engine. A major challenge in biorefineries is the valorization of cellulose and lignin to basic chemical building blocks. Electro-chemical processes provide a promising pathway to tackle the challenge. Combined with the expertise of AVT.CVT concerning membrane processes, reaction and separation can be fused to synergetic hybrid reactors enabling efficient and effective processes.
The e2chem-workgroup also works on the development of a new method for the desalination of water. Capacitive Deionization (CDI) is potentially a very energy efficient process for water desalination, but is usually operated discontinuously. A new development in the area of CDI is the use of flowable electrodes instead of stationary electrodes, which consist of flowable carbon suspensions. Based on this technology, the workgroup was able to develop two continuous methods, which are able to reach very high water recoveries compared to existing desalination technologies.