PhD defence: Electrocatalysts for the conversion of carbon dioxide into liquid fuels

Friday 01 Sep 17

Design of oxide electrocatalysts for efficient conversion of CO2 into liquid fuels

Main supervisor: Tejs Vegge

Co-supervisor: Heine Anton Hansen

The Ph.D. study was financially supported by the Lundbeck Foundation.

On 28 August 2017 Arghya Bhowmik defended his PhD thesis with the title “Design of oxide electrocatalysts for efficient conversion of CO2 into liquid fuels”.

With the cost of electricity produced from wind and solar falling significantly in recent years, we are looking at an increased electrification of the global energy system. However, for heavy transportation – trucks, ships, planes – it will be difficult to replace liquid fuels with electricity stored in batteries. This is due to the fact that the energy density (the amount of energy stored by weight or volume) is much higher for liquid fuels. Batteries of the required size would simply be too expensive and heavy.

But what if you could make liquid fuels from renewable electricity? If you could use CO2 either from biomass or from atmospheric capture as a starting point and transform it (and water) to a synthetic liquid fuel using electricity from renewable sources, the use of this fuel would be carbon neutral. It is this challenge, Arghya Bhowmik has spent the three years of his PhD study to try to solve.

Arghya Bhowmik at his PhD defence, holding a gift from his colleagues: An engraved whiskey bottle with his nameArghya has studied a new class of electrocatalysts (materials which facilitate the transformation of CO2 into fuels in the presence of an electrical potential) which show great promise. Many of the electrocatalysts previously studied have been metals which have intrinsic limitations in their performance. Some experimental results with oxides have been seen, but the understanding of the detailed reaction mechanisms has been missing. Through theoretical studies, using density functional theory, of the atomic scale properties of materials based on ruthenium oxide or iridium oxide, Arghya has achieved new insight into the critical reactions which occur on the electrocatalysts. In particular he has identified a potential new way to engineer the properties of oxide electrocatalysts to increase stability and efficiency. He is  collaborating with experimentalists at DTU Physics to validate his findings.

Arghya plans to continue his academic career. He is currently employed in the department as a research assistant working on atomic scale simulation and design of ionic liquid electrolytes for batteries.

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