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submitted on 07.05.2019 and posted on 08.05.2019by Daniela Blanco, Bryan Lee, Miguel Modestino
Organic electrocatalysis can transform the chemical industry by
introducing new, electricity-driven processes that are more energy efficient
and that can be easily integrated with renewable energy sources. However, their
deployment is severely hindered by the difficulties of controlling selectivity
and achieving a large energy conversion efficiency at high current density, due
to the low solubility of organic reactants in practical electrolytes. This
control can be improved by carefully balancing the mass transport processes and
electrocatalytic reaction rates at the electrode diffusion layer through pulsed
electrochemical methods. In this study, we explore these methods in the context
of the electrosynthesis of adiponitrile, the largest organic electrochemical
process in industry. Systematically exploring voltage pulses in the timescale
between 5-150 ms, led to a 20% increase in production of ADN and a 250%
increase in relative selectivity with respect to the state-of-the-art constant
voltage process. Moreover, combining this systematic experimental investigation
with artificial intelligence (AI) tools allowed us to rapidly discover drastically
improved electrosynthetic conditions, reaching improvements of 30% and 325% in
ADN production rates and selectivity, respectively. This powerful AI-enhanced
experimental approach represents a new paradigm in electrocatalysis research
that can accelerate the deployment of electrochemical manufacturing processes.
Read the published paper
in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences