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Energy Seminar: Sustainable Liquid Fuel Production | Measuring Solid-Electrolyte Interphase

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Event Details:

Stanford affiliates are welcome to join in person. All others may watch via livestream:

This seminar will highlight the work of two of the winners of the Stanford Energy Student Lecture series.

Carbonate-catalyzed CO2 hydrogenation for sustainable liquid fuel production

Despite increasing electrification, generating carbon-neutral liquid fuels remains critical for decarbonizing sectors that cannot readily electrify. Recently commercialized gas fermentation, a technology that makes alcohols from CO and H2, has created a new opportunity for sustainable liquid fuel production provided that CO and H2 can be sourced renewably. While H2 can be made from water electrolysis, the renewable production of CO remains a challenge. Here, we demonstrate a scalable, selective, and stable thermochemical catalyst that upgrades H2 and CO2 into a CO-containing feedstock appropriate for gas fermentation to ethanol. The combination of water electrolysis, our process, and gas fermentation could convert electricity into ethanol fuel with nearly 50% overall energy efficiency, highlighting a unique opportunity to generate renewable liquid fuels at scale.

Bio: Chastity Li received her B.A. in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard University in 2018. She is a fourth-year Chemistry Ph.D. candidate supported by the Chevron Fellowship in Energy and Stanford's Sustainability Accelerator. Her research with Professor Matthew Kanan explores methods for sustainable liquid fuel generation that circumvent the efficiency limitations and land-use requirements of current biofuel production.

Quantification of solid-electrolyte interphase composition during nonaqueous electrochemical nitrogen reduction

To accommodate the growing population and decarbonize synthetic ammonia (NH3) production, electrified alternatives to Haber-Bosch must be developed. However, electrified methods are often hindered by poor selectivity to NH3, which is underpinned by a poorly formed solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI) layer on the cathode surface. In this work, our novel quantitative SEI composition measurements reveal that SEI growth coincides with improved Faradaic efficiency to NH3, suggesting that the SEI acts as a membrane which selectively hinders transport of ethanol while still allowing N2 transport to the cathode surface. Our findings provide important insights for the rational design of electrolytes to impart beneficial SEI properties which can improve selectivity in emerging electrochemical NH3 synthesis systems.

Bio: Eric received his BS in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Cornell University in 2016, where he worked as an undergraduate researcher studying scalable synthesis methods for Si and Ge nanowires in the lab of Tobias Hanrath as part of the Rawling Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Program. He then earned the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship before beginning his graduate studies at UC Berkeley in the fall of 2016, joining Bryan McCloskey's lab to study the kinetic, transport, and degradation phenomena underpinning lithium-ion battery operation during fast charge. After graduating in September 2021, he began his postdoctoral position at Stanford University in the Cargnello lab, where he now studies electrolyte engineering methods to improve the Faradaic efficiency of the Li-mediated electrochemical ammonia synthesis process.