The Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR), which is critical for fuel cells, metal-air batteries, and hydrogen peroxide production, is a slow and inefficient process that requires the use of expensive catalysts. Fuel cells and metal-air batteries are used for transportation and energy storage while hydrogen peroxide is widely used as a bleaching agent and disinfectant in many industrial processes, the production of cosmetics, and in medical applications. Most hydrogen peroxide is produced on a large scale in centralized plants using the energy-intensive anthraquinone process, but the development of a new electrochemical method could produce hydrogen peroxide in an affordable and more energy and environmentally efficient manner. Cheaper production could also help hydrogen peroxide replace chlorine dioxide as the preferred bleaching agent, which would reduce water pollution from chlorine bleach and decrease the need for the chlor-alkali process for chlorine production, a major consumer of electricity.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The University of Tennessee (UT) will develop a reversible Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR) catalyst that can be used both as a peroxide-producing electrolyzer and in reversible air batteries. The ORR catalyst development seeks to significantly improve peroxide electrolysis efficiency and achieve high charge and discharge rates in air-breathing batteries. In conjunction with the new catalyst, an anion exchange membrane (AEM) will be used to further increase the electrolyzer efficiency and reduce peroxide production costs. In the reversible air battery, the AEM increases battery power performance. Finally, a two-phase flow field design will increase both the current density and current efficiency for peroxide production and can also be used in the reversible air battery to build up a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide for energy storage. This technology could also enable onsite hydrogen peroxide production at small scale.