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Converting CO2 into Fuel and Chemicals

Dioxide Materials
ARPA-E Award: 
Boca Raton, FL
Project Term: 
02/01/2013 to 03/06/2017
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Dioxide Materials
Critical Need: 

Power production from combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and contributes to rising greenhouse gas (GHG) levels in the atmosphere. Technologies capable of cost-effective CO2 capture and reuse would help stabilize atmospheric GHG levels and provide an opportunity to turn CO2 into a feedstock for valuable products, such as chemicals and fuels.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Dioxide Materials is developing technology to produce carbon monoxide, or "synthesis gas" electrochemically from CO2 emitted by power plants. Synthesis gas can be used as a feedstock for the production of industrial chemicals and liquid fuels. The current state-of-the-art process for capturing and removing CO2 from the flue gas of power plants is expensive and energy intensive, and therefore faces significant hurdles towards widespread implementation. The technologies being developed by Dioxide Materials aim to convert CO2 into something useful in an economical and practical way. The technology has the potential to create an entirely new industry where waste CO2--rather than oil--is used to produce gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and industrial chemicals.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Dioxide Materials' conversion process would change CO2 from a waste product into a useful, economically viable feedstock, allowing renewable fuels and chemicals to be manufactured at costs comparable to more traditional processes.


Converting CO2 to synthesis gas and liquid fuels would help reduce amount of petroleum imports.


Carbon capture and reuse technology could help stabilize atmospheric GHG levels.


Economically viable carbon capture and reuse technology could promote the growth of new industries capable of utilizing synthesis gas as a feedstock for valuable products.

Innovation Update: 
(As of December 2016) 
Dioxide Materials is developing a carbon dioxide (CO2) electrolyzer with the goal of converting CO2 into useful products. The team plans first to enter small addressable markets for their membranes to drive down costs and improve their manufacturing process. Initially, they plan on targeting CO2 sensors through a technology licensing agreement while simultaneously pursuing direct sales of their proprietary anion exchange fuel cell membrane, providing the company with revenue and direct feedback from customers. 3M, a world leader in the scale-up of the electrochemical assemblies and fuel cells, is supporting the development of the manufacturing process.
In addition, Dioxide Materials plans to develop commercial electrolyzers that can be used to produce the carbon monoxide (CO) precursor for renewable fuels and chemicals and license them worldwide in partnership with 3M. Dioxide Materials is also having ongoing commercial discussions about applications in CO2 waste stream utilization with industrial chemical producers including Modac, Linde, and Siemens. 
Dioxide Materials is addressing the major requirements for designing an electrochemical cell that produces CO economically, which include: 1) a low over-potential reaction, which selectively converts CO2 to CO; 2) a high enough current density to minimize the size of the cell need for high rates of chemical conversion; 3) a long life time; 4) the potential to scale up to an industrial scale. Dioxide Materials’ ionic liquid-containing membrane electrode assembly (MEA) demonstrated low over-potential and 99% selectivity, but low turnover rate. The team increased the reaction rate and the lifetime by systematically tuning the cell design and ionic liquid composition. 
In parallel, 3M is scaling up the components of the MEA towards a roll-to-roll process, while maintaining cell performance and evaluating alternative designs. The team scaled up the device size from 1cm2 to 250 cm2, increasing the total CO production volumes by a factor of one million. 
For a detailed assessment of the Dioxide Materials project and impact, please click here.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Marc von Keitz
Project Contact: 
Dr. Rich Masel
Release Date: