What is it about?

Using electricity generated from renewable energy sources for material conversion can help create a green chemical industry that is not dependent on fossil resources. The electrochemical approach we propose is sustainable for upgrading bioethanol to value-added chemicals. 1,1-Diethoxyethane (DEE) is a derivative of ethanol and has versatile applications in the chemical industry. We report DEE synthesis from ethanol by proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis.

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Why is it important?

PEM electrolysis has several unique advantages over conventional electrochemical processes. First, no electrolyte is required. Furthermore, high energy-conversion efficiency can be achieved. PEM electrolysis of pure ethanol yields DEE with high Faradaic efficiency (78%). The protons extracted from ethanol are reduced to hydrogen at the cathode. Thus, PEM electrolysis provides value-added products at the anode (DEE) and cathode (H2). Our proposed electrolysis process also has mechanistic features. The electrochemical reaction produces acetaldehyde from ethanol, and acetalization then proceeds with the aid of the acid property of the Nafion membrane used in the PEM.

Perspectives

PEM electrolysis does not require chemical reagents such as oxidants or electrolytes, and electrolysis can be performed using renewable energy. These are desirable features from the perspective of green synthesis of chemicals and a sustainable future. It has the potential to become a new chemical industrial process with low CO2 emissions.

Hitoshi Ogihara
Saitama University

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This page is a summary of: Upgrading of Ethanol to 1,1‐Diethoxyethane by Proton‐Exchange Membrane Electrolysis, ChemSusChem, August 2021, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/cssc.202101188.
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