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Glycolic acid Researchers from the group of professor Miho Yamauchi at the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER) of Kyushu University (Fukuoka City, Ito Campus, i2cner.kyushu-u.ac.jp) have fabricated a liquid flow-type electrolyzer that can continuously produce an alcohol from a carboxylic acid using a polymer electrolyte. Dubbed PEAEC (polymer electrolyte alcohol electrosynthesis cell), the system has been shown to produce glycolic acid from oxalic acid using a porous TiO2 (anatase) catalyst. The catalyst is directly grown on a Ti mesh (TiO2/Ti-M) or Ti felt (TiO2/Ti-F), which is used as the cathode. The anode — IrO2 supported on a gas-diffusion carbon electrode (IrO2/C) — is separated from the cathode by a Nafion 117 membrane. With this assembly, a maximum energy conversion efficiency of 49.6% was observed, and a 99.8% continuous conversion of oxalic acid was achieved at room temperature. Because glycolic acid is a stable compound with high energy density, it is a promising candidate for use in energy storage and transport. This electrochemical system offers a possible way to store excess wind or solar electricity.
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