Process 2: Electricity to create ethene


Ethene is by far the most important basic chemical used in the petrochemical industry; nearly 60 percent of it is used as a raw material for the mass plastic polyethylene (PE). Like all alkenes, ethene is currently made from petroleum. In this lighthouse project, researchers were able

to demonstrate the success of a continuous electrochemical process to produce ethene from CO2 and water. In order to achieve this, they used various procedures to create and validate copper-based catalysts, and placed them on gas diffusion electrodes (GDEs). GDEs are electro- des in which the three aggregate states – solid (catalyst), liquid (H2O) and gas (CO2) – remain in contact with one another so that an electrochemical reaction can take place in the catalyst between the liquid and gaseous phase. In order to achieve high yields, the researchers not only optimized the catalysts and the GDE, but also built a demonstrator in which electrodes measuring up to 130 cm² can be tested in continuous operation and process parameters can be optimized. It is the first demonstrator that can be used to show an industry-oriented process and for studying scaling effects.

The “Electricity to create ethene” process thus provides the following innovative solu- tions for industrial applications:

  • Producing copper-based and metal-free catalysts for synthesizing ethene (deep eutectic solvent, co-precipitation, electrochemical deposition)
  • Manufacturing metallic capillary electrodes and electrochemical reactor modules
  • Automated demonstrator for testing electrochemical synthesis processes and catalysts during continuous operation (electrode size: 130 cm²)