Electrocatalyst from Oregon State University is made of a unique molecule that promotes stability and selectivity.


  • Low-cost
  • Increased efficiecy
  • Sustainable


  • Commercial and industrial energy generation

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy

The Challenge

Most energy is generated through the burning of fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These gases absorb solar energy and keep heat close to the Earth, also known as the greenhouse effect. CO2 reduction can remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere, but traditional methods often use chemicals that require high temperatures and energy. Electrochemical CO2 reduction is an alternative method where the reactions are done at room temperature in liquid solutions. The energy needed for electrochemical CO2 reduction can be harnessed from solar power, creating an entirely green process. However, due to the many different possible reaction pathways for different products, CO2 reduction reactions have historically had low efficiency.

Innovation Details

Electrochemical CO2 reduction involves metal nanocatalysts that can selectively reduce CO2 to a specific carbon product, such as carbon monoxide. Controlling the nanostructure of the nanocatalyst helps to optimize performance. The researchers engineered nickel phthalocyanine to serve as an electrocatalyst, and found that it converted CO2 to carbon monoxide much more efficiently, and operated stably for 40 hours.

Biological Model

Photosynthesis helps plants to produce energy using just sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. During this process, carbon dioxide must first be fixed and then reduced so it can be converted into energy.