PerspectiveELECTROCHEMISTRY

Electrification of the chemical industry

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Science  12 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6496, pp. 1181-1182
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb8061

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Summary

Curbing carbon emissions while maintaining quality of life is a global challenge for manufacturing processes that will require process innovation. One approach is replacing energy from the burning of carbon-based fuels with energy supplied by “green” electrons. This goal can be achieved in some cases by simply replacing heat supplied by combustion with electrical heating (1). In chemical synthesis, it can also more elegantly supply reaction energy through electrochemistry. On page 1228 of this issue, Leow et al. (2) propose an electrochemical route to ethylene oxide (EO) and propylene oxide (PO) that promises cleaner, more efficient, and more selective processing. Ethylene and propylene were epoxidized electrochemically to EO and PO, respectively, at industrially relevant current densities with Faradaic (electron-specific) selectivities ∼70% to the target epoxide (2).

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