Electroosmotic flow steers neutral products and enables concentrated ethanol electroproduction from CO2

Rui Kai Miao, Yi Xu, Adnan Ozden, Anthony Robb, Colin P. O'Brien, Christine M. Gabardo, Geonhui Lee, Jonathan P. Edwards, Jianan Erick Huang, Mengyang Fan, Xue Wang, Shijie Liu, Yu Yan, Edward H. Sargent, David Sinton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2RR) converts intermittent renewable energy into high energy density fuels, such as ethanol. Membrane electrode assembly (MEA) electrolyzers are particularly well-suited for CO2-to-ethanol conversion in view of their low ohmic resistance and high stability. However, over 75% of the ethanol produced at the cathode migrates through the membrane where it is diluted by the anolyte and may be oxidized. The ethanol concentration that results is two orders of magnitude below the 10 wt % standard set by the incumbent industrial process, fermentation. Here, we reverse the direction of ion and electroosmotic transport by means of a porous proton exchange layer, thereby blocking both the convective and diffusive routes of ethanol loss. With this strategy, we eliminate ethanol crossover to the anode (< 1%) and achieve an ethanol concentration of 13.1 wt % directly from the cathode outlet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2742-2753
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 20 2021


  • CO electroreduction
  • carbon utilization
  • catalysis
  • concentration
  • downstream separation
  • electrolyzer
  • ethanol
  • liquid crossover
  • membrane electrode assembly
  • polymer electrolyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)


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