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New electrochemical conversion routes for the production of chemicals and materials in process industries (Processes4Planet Partnership) (RIA)

Renewable electricity will play a major role in the transition towards a low carbon energy supply. The production of chemicals, bulk materials and metals through the direct use of renewable electricity and energy sources can be realised by electrochemical conversion in photo- and/or electro-catalytic processes. Besides the reduction of CO2 emissions, other advantages of electrochemical conversion with renewable electricity can be the higher selectivity, process flexibility, or the possibility of accessing chemical pathways unattainable in a conventional reactor. Furthermore, photoelectrocatalysis (PEC) directly uses the solar radiation to drive the electrochemical reaction, enabling potential higher efficiencies and lower costs.

At present, there are promising electrochemical routes towards a wide range of products in process industries. These include processes such as hydrogenation of biomass into valuable chemicals, recovery of metals from waste streams (including strategic or scarce materials), electrosynthesis of ammonia and organic molecules, production of lime by electrochemical splitting, electrolytic production of metals, (in-situ) production of hydrogen peroxide or ozone, etc.

Advanced electrochemical systems, configurations and novel technologies can enable higher efficiencies and/or lower investments or operational costs. High temperature electrochemical processes, using ionic liquids or molten salts as electrolytes, offer interesting alternatives to the classical production processes as well opportunities for the development of sustainable technology. Paired synthesis, where two valuable products are generated through the cathodic and anodic reactions, can help to reduce energy consumption and costs (per unit product). The integration of PEC technologies removes the intermediate electricity production step, which can make the conversion process more energy efficient. Processes that involve multistep transformations can be improved with a cell design that allows for the selective realisation of complex reactions in a single unit and low-cost downstream processing.

All these novel electrochemical paths need to integrate process design and optimisation with the development of advanced materials and reactor/cell components as well as low-energy separation processes.

Proposals should address the following aspects:

  • Development of the new electrochemical conversion route towards a product or intermediate of interest for process industries and demonstration at an appropriate scale;
  • Optimisation of the reactor design and operation and the electrochemical parameters (mass and charge transfer) towards an improved electrochemical performance (increased Faradaic efficiency, lower overpotential, etc.);
  • Optimisation of the reactor design and operation and the electrochemical parameters towards the increased lifetime or reduced cost of the electrochemical reactor components (electrode, electrolyte, catalyst, membrane);
  • Development of suitable electrodes and electrocatalyst for the new conversion route towards a high selectivity and performance;
  • Efficient integration of renewable energy sources, considering also their intermittency and the possibility to offer demand-response flexibility;
  • Integrated process design, including materials, reactor/cell and separation methods, from the process intensification and cost perspectives;
  • Demonstration and validation of the proposed concepts at an appropriate scale under environmental relevant conditions. Industrial feasibility should be proven by techno-economic assessments.

The integration of oxidation and reduction reactions to produce valuable products in one system is a valuable aspect. The use of critical raw materials or toxic materials should be preferably avoided. The circular utilisation of a waste or emission stream as raw material and the use of inert or low carbon impact materials, in general, are positive aspects.

The proposed technology must not target the electrochemical conversion of CO2 or the production of hydrogen by water splitting, as these subjects are covered in other topics of the Work Programme.

Proposals submitted under this topic should include a business case and exploitation strategy, as outlined in the introduction to this Destination.

Proposals submitted under this topic should include a safety assessment and a life cycle assessment for the implementation of the developed technologies.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, International Cooperation is encouraged, in particular with Japan.

This topic implements the co-programmed European partnership Processes4Planet.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement