November 19, 2020
Simon Fraser University chemist Steven Holdcroft is accelerating his work on technology that could help covert CO2 into products used to produce electrical energy, with new funding from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC)
Holdcroft’s work developing ion exchange membranes that help in the conversation of captured CO2 emissions into green fuels is part of the NRC’s Materials for Clean Fuels Challenge Program, which aims to sustainably transform Canada’s oil and gas, and petrochemical industries and meet the country’s climate change goals.
In partnership with the NRC and Vancouver-based clean energy startup, Ionomr Innovations Inc., Holdcroft has been awarded $252,035 to develop new ion exchange membranes specific to CO2 conversion.
Ion exchange membranes are a crucial component in the conversion of greenhouse gas emissions into useful chemicals and fuels powered by renewable electricity.
The ultra-thin layer of ion-conducting plastic helps break down CO2 through a chemical process and convert emissions into higher value products that may be used to produce electrical energy. This is similar to how hydrogen fuel cells and water electrolyzers work but, up until recently, there has not been a membrane that has been stable enough to withstand the caustic conditions of CO2 conversion.
The new funding from the NRC will help Holdcroft and Ionomr resolve this issue and increase the technology readiness level of this climate change solution. Ionomr was launched out of SFU’s department of Chemistry and the Invention to Innovation commercialization program at the Beedie School of Business.
If successful and the technology is able to be scaled up, such membranes could transform some heavily-polluting industries – such as oil and gas or steel refineries – enabling them to be not just carbon neutral, but possibly carbon negative, by capturing emissions and converting it into renewable energy and products.
These types of industries currently account for approximately of 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re world leaders in this technology, but still in the early stage of research; scaling up is a completely different beast,” says Holdcroft. “With this funding, we can move into a new phase to develop a proof that shows that the concept works at scale.”