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Electrosynthesis - Electrochemical Synthesis

Electrochemical synthesis, also known as electrosynthesis, is a process that involves the use of a potentiostat or galvanostat to drive current through an electrochemical cell forcing a chemical reaction to produce a desired intermediate or product. This technique can be used to synthesize a wide range of materials, including metals, alloys, polymers, various chemicals and even pharmaceuticals. Electrosynthesis can take place on a bench scale or on an industrial scale.

Technique Overview

In electrochemical synthesis, an electric current is passed through an electrolyte solution containing the reactants. Electricity provides the energy needed to initiate and sustain the chemical reactions. Electrodes are immersed in the electrolyte solution, and each electrode serves a specific purpose: the anode is where oxidation occurs (loss of electrons), and the cathode is where reduction occurs (gain of electrons).

The reactions taking place at the electrodes depend on the specific reactants and conditions, but generally, one or more of the following processes occur:

  1. Oxidation: At the anode, molecules lose electrons, often forming positively charged ions or undergoing chemical transformations that wouldn't happen spontaneously.
  2. Reduction: At the cathode, molecules gain electrons, often forming negatively charged ions or undergoing chemical transformations that wouldn't happen spontaneously.

By controlling the electrical potential, current density, temperature, and other parameters, scientists and engineers can optimize the electrochemical synthesis process to achieve desired products efficiently and selectively. This ability to control the potenial or current gives the researcher a high degree of control on the reaction.

Electrochemical synthesis has various applications, including the production of organic compounds, metal deposition, water electrolysis for hydrogen production, chlorine production, and environmental remediation. It's often favored for its sustainability, selectivity, and energy efficiency compared to traditional chemical synthesis methods.

More Details

Electrosynthesis involves the use of an electrochemical cell which contains two or three electrodes. A two-electrode system contains a working electrode and counter electrode. The advantage of two-electrode setups is that they are easier to maintain and donโ€™t require a reference electrode but they can suffer from accuracy and control problems if the synthesis procedure is not well understood.

A three-electrode setup, utilizing a reference electrode, allows for more accurate control of the synthesis. Here, the voltage of the working electrode is measured against the stable reference electrode. This helps eliminate unwanted side reactions.

Electrochemical Synthesis techniques have some advantages over traditional chemical synthesis techniques. They can be run at lower temperatures and pressures and can be run in aqueous media as opposed to more hazardous organic solvents. They can also accumulate less waste since there is greater control over the reaction.


Gamry Advantages

Gamry Instruments has a large variety of potentiostats/galvanostats for electrosynthesis. All of our potentiostats/galvanostats are isolated from Earth ground, making it easy to run syntheses in grounded cells. This can be especially useful if you are running your reactions in a reactor vessel for elevated temperature or pressure. Finally, our software development kits (toolkits) allow you to customize your setups, experiments, and data analysis. This customization is especially useful if you need to control the potentiostat in a process control environment.


Recommended Setup

Recommended Electrosynthesis Systems

Research in electrochemical synthesis and scale-up of the process requires a range of instrumentation. Bench scale work can be accomplished with any number of Gamry instruments.

Our standard lineup includes instruments capable of outputting 600 mA, 1 A, 3 A, and 5 A. The Interface 1010, Interface 5000, Reference 620, and Reference 3000 are all viable systems to study electrochemical synthesis.

Engineering studies typically require higher currents, as does the final production-scale process. For higher current applications, the Reference 3000 combined with the Reference 30k Booster lets you apply and measure up to +/-30 A of current at +20/-2.5 V.

If 30 A is not enough, the LPI1010 Load/Power Supply Interface allows us to expand to even higher currents when necessary. Our LPI1010 combines the signal generation and accurate measuring capabilities of an Interface 1010E with an electronic load (or power supply) to work at higher currents (>30A).

For even higher currents, Gamry has partnered with* to provide capabilities up to 100A. Several Kolibrik potentiostats/galvanostats are available. There are standard systems for 5V/20A, 5V/50A, 5V/100A, 10V/20A, and 10V/50A.

*Gamry is able to provide in North America, China, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Other countries should contact Kolibrik directly.