PI: Bilge Yildiz , Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT
Ethylene (C2H4) is one of the most valuable compounds in the chemical industry. It is used as a precursor for the production of many materials and chemicals, including plastics and pharmaceuticals. A catalytic reaction, Oxidative Coupling of Methane (OCM), has attracted wide attention for producing ethylene from cheap natural gas, but it has not been commercialized due to the very low yield of the product. This loss originates from deep oxidation of methane to CO and CO2. To overcome this challenge, in this project we develop a novel route, electrochemical OCM, and materials that enable this process. We expect that deep oxidation of methane will be effectively suppressed in electrochemical OCM because oxygen is supplied in the form of negatively charged oxygen species from the solid state to the surface, instead of gas phase oxygen molecule. Moreover, due to the reaction energy being exothermic, in an electrochemical cell, we will also obtain electricity as a product, in addition to ethylene. We will design suitable mixed ionic-electronic conducting electrocatalyst materials in order to increase the yield of the OCM reaction and improve the energy efficiency of the process. The key to the success of this project will be to develop novel materials that intrinsically combine the catalytic activity to OCM, and mixed ionic-electronic conductivity that is necessary for efficient electrochemistry, and we propose a highly promising material system to demonstrate this.