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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R000409/1
Title: Plasma and Fluidic Assisted Electrocatalysis for Chemical Storage of Renewable Electricity
Principal Investigator: Rothman, Dr R
Other Investigators:
Zimmerman, Professor W Allen, Professor R
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
FOM Institute DIFFER Perlemax Ltd
Department: Chemical & Biological Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2017 Ends: 31 August 2019 Value (£): 201,381
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Fuel Cell Technologies
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
16 Feb 2017 Energy Feasibility 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Our ambition is to couple electrocatalysis, plasma catalysis and fluidic oscillation to create a highly efficient energy conversion device and a paradigm shift in the ability to store renewable energy in chemical form.

The reduction in carbon emissions required for a sustainable future, and the resultant necessary decarbonisation of energy generation, inevitably lead to an increased focus on renewable energy sources. The natural intermittency of renewable electricity, such as wind and solar, mean that other technologies, such as energy storage, must play an increasingly fundamental role by smoothing the natural fluctuations in electricity production. Reversible Solid Oxide Cells (SOCs) are widely seen as a leading technology for future clean power generation, chemicals production and energy storage. Renewable electricity can be utilised directly in electrolysis mode to reduce CO2 and/or H2O which can then be further reacted to produce a myriad of hydrocarbon related products. In times of low or no renewable electricity generation, the SOC can be run in reverse, in fuel cell mode, to produce electricity.

There are currently no subsidy-free, commercially viable SOC companies anywhere in the world. Whilst single SOCs are easy to operate on a small scale in the laboratory, larger systems have found it difficult to compete with alternative energy technologies on cost, performance and durability. In particular, it is necessary to develop methods for lifetime extension of SOCs, minimisation of losses such as concentration polarisation, and faster chemical activation of CO2, using energy inputs close to the thermodynamic minimum.

Non-thermal plasma catalysis has shown great potential for CO2 reduction in its own right due to the promotion of strongly endothermic reactions with low activation energy, so that little or no excess energy is required from the plasma for activation and thermodynamic efficiencies are high. The challenges are to dynamically control the reaction and to achieve high conversion. Fluidic oscillation can disrupt boundary layer formation and therefore minimise, or remove completely, concentration polarisation. Fluidic oscillation has never before been coupled to an SOC.

We propose a novel, hybrid, plasma and fluidic assisted electrolysis system, in which the plasma is used to radically improve the kinetics and energy efficiency of CO2 dissociation. The system would be designed to reduce concentration polarisation, a cause of lowered mass transfer, at the electrode through fluidic oscillation to disrupt the gas boundary layer and by use of the ionic wind formed in plasmas (the gas flow generated by movement of ions in the plasma). Ultimately the aim is to create a completely new design of chemical reactor for strongly endothermic reactions. A significant reduction in overall energy use and cell failure rate will be achieved as a result of this feasibility research.

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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk