Cascade CO2 electroreduction enables efficient carbonate-free production of ethylene

Adnan Ozden, Yuhang Wang, Fengwang Li, Mingchuan Luo, Jared Sisler, Arnaud Thevenon, Alonso Rosas-Hernández, Thomas Burdyny, Yanwei Lum, Hossein Yadegari, Theodor Agapie, Jonas C. Peters, Edward H. Sargent*, David Sinton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


CO2 electroreduction offers a route to net-zero-emission production of C2H4—the most-produced organic compound. However, the formation of carbonate in this process causes loss of CO2 and a severe energy consumption/production penalty. Dividing the CO2-to-C2H4 process into two cascading steps—CO2 reduction to CO in a solid-oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) and CO reduction to C2H4 in a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) electrolyser—would enable carbonate-free C2H4 electroproduction. However, this cascade approach requires CO-to-C2H4 with energy efficiency well beyond demonstrations to date. Here, we present a layered catalyst structure composed of a metallic Cu, N-tolyl-tetrahydro-bipyridine, and SSC ionomer that enables efficient CO-to-C2H4 in a MEA electrolyser. In the full SOEC-MEA cascade approach, we achieve CO2-to-C2H4 with no loss of CO2 to carbonate and a total energy requirement of ~138 GJ (ton C2H4)−1, representing a ~48% reduction in energy intensity compared with the direct route.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-719
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • carbon utilization
  • catalyst design
  • CO electroreduction
  • electrolyser
  • energy efficiency
  • ethylene electrolysis
  • membrane electrode assembly
  • molecular catalyst
  • solid-oxide electrolyser


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