Dioxide Materials aspires to be the world leader in the production of renewable gasoline from water, CO2 and renewable energy. By way of background, the world urgently needs a way to avoid catastrophic climate change, but solutions have not been forthcoming. Presently, most of the world’s effort in mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been concentrated on reducing emissions from point sources: e.g. power plants. However, over 60% of the world’s (GHG) emissions come other sources: fuel combustion in cars, trucks and airplanes, heating buildings, cooking, etc. There are some small efforts to reduce these other emissions, but the efforts are marginal and will not allow the world to meet emission goals set out by the International Panel on Climate Change. Biofuels, for example, do not meet the need because there is insufficient land available to grow sufficient biofuels.
Dioxide Materials’ goal is to lead the way to a low carbon future by developing CO2 recycling to fuels as a way of closing the carbon loop by capturing emitted CO2 and recycling it back to fuels without competing with the food supply. The technology was founded by Prof. Rich Masel, who retired from UIUC. His passion for wanting to reduce Greenhouse emissions led the development of this breakthrough technology which offers the potential to treat millions of tons of CO2 annually and turn the waste product into useful chemicals, fuels or consumer products while leveraging the intermediary compounds to store (renewable) energy.
Fortunately, there is an immediate market need for the renewable fuels that Dioxide Materials will produce. The California Air Resources Board has mandated increasingly strict fuel carbon standards. By 2025, it is unlikely they can be met by any existing technology. There is a similar mandate in for the entire US, through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, although enforcement of the mandate may be changed by the current administration. Dioxide Materials expects to be a leader in providing the technology that is needed to create the low carbon gasoline that California, and the rest of the country needs.
As intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, increase their market penetration, their daily and seasonal variability needs to be balanced out by either peaking power plants or energy storage solutions. While batteries may soon provide short-duration energy storage at reasonable costs, they do not perform as well for multi-day storage. One alternative is power-to-gas (or liquid) technologies, such as water electrolyzers that convert electricity to chemical energy in hydrogen (H2), which can then be stored in pressurized tanks or underground caverns. These systems do allow for longer-term storage at a lower cost, but suffer from reduced roundtrip efficiencies.
Dioxide Materials’ is developing alkaline water electrolyzers for an improved power-to-gas system. The team’s electrochemical cells are composed of an anode, a cathode, and a membrane that allows charged ions (anions in this case) to pass through, while being electrically insulating. High-conductivity anion exchange membranes are rare and often do not have the chemical or mechanical stability to withstand H2 production at elevated pressures. The team has developed an anion exchange membrane that has sufficient conductivity, chemical stability and mechanical strength, is low-cost, and manufacturable in a scaleable process. The anion exchange Sustainion® membranes are based on an inexpensive alkaline stable polystyrene backbone. The membrane synthesis and fabrication have been described in detail in several past publications. Also, by operating at alkaline instead of acidic conditions, the electrochemical cells do not need to use expensive precious metal catalysts, which most systems require to prevent corrosion. Dioxide Materials estimates that operating under alkaline conditions could lead to a significantly lower electrolyzer stack cost due to higher current densities and lower material costs (i.e. non-precious metals). The system will be compatible with intermittent energy sources because it can operate at lower temperatures than competiting technologies, thus allowing startup times on the order of seconds.
Dioxide has already demonstrated record performance at lab scale with CO2 Electrolyzer technology and have been issued over 20 patents with many still pending. Dioxide’s Alkaline Water Electrolyzer with Sustainion™ Membranes have achieved record performance at 1 A/cm² at 1.85 V with Base Metal Catalysts; and the same membranes also offer improved CO2 electrochemical reduction performance and long life in CO2 electrolysis and “CO2 Conversion to Formic Acid and Acrylic Acid. The technology has been validated by Fortune 500 companies and Dioxide Materials sells research grade electrolyzers, components, Sustainion® membranes and ionomers on their website www.dioxidematerials.com.