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Sustainable Conversion of Harmful Algae Biomass into a CO2 Reduction Electrocatalyst for Two-Fold Carbon Utilization

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-05, 18:34 authored by Xiao Hu, Wu-Jun Liu, Lin-Lin Ma, Han-Qing Yu
Harmful algae blooms (HABs) frequently occur all over the world and cause great harm to the environment, human health, and aquatic ecosystems. However, owing to their great growth rate and large nutrient intake capacity, algae can enrich a large amount of carbon (CO2) and nutritional elements (N and P) in their biomass. Thus, this could be applied as a robust approach to battle global warming and water eutrophication if the harmful algae biomass was effectively harvested and utilized. Herein, we propose a thermochemical approach to convert algae biomass into a nitrogen-doped electrocatalyst for CO2 reduction. The as-synthesized carbon catalyst exhibits a favorable electrochemical CO2 reduction activity. The key drivers of the environmental impacts in the thermochemical conversion approach with a comparison with the commonly used landfilling approach are identified with life cycle assessment. The former presents much lower environmental burdens in terms of impacts such as freshwater/terrestrial ecotoxicity and human toxicity than the latter. Moreover, if the thermochemical conversion process was successfully applied for biomass conversion worldwide, 2.17 × 108 tons of CO2-eq, 8.42 × 106 tons of N, and 1.21 × 106 tons of P could be removed from the global carbon and other element cycles. Meanwhile, the thermochemical approach is also similar to landfilling in terms of costs. The results from this work provide a brand-new perspective for achieving twofold CO2 utilization and efficiently battling harmful algae blooms.