Inhomogeneities in the Catholyte Channel Limit the Upscaling of CO<sub>2</sub> Flow Electrolysers

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The use of gas diffusion electrodes that supply gaseous CO2 directly to the catalyst layer has greatly improved the performance of electrochemical CO2 conversion. However, reports of high current densities and Faradaic efficiencies primarily come from small lab scale electrolysers. Such electrolysers typically have a geometric area of 5 cm2, while an industrial electrolyser would require an area closer to 1 m2. The difference in scales means that many limitations that manifest only for larger electrolysers are not captured in lab scale setups. We develop a 2D computational model of both a lab scale and upscaled CO2 electrolyser to determine performance limitations at larger scales and how they compare to the performance limitations observed at the lab scale. We find that for the same current density larger electrolysers exhibit much greater reaction and local environment inhomogeneity. Increasing catalyst layer pH and widening concentration boundary layers of the KHCO3 buffer in the electrolyte channel lead to higher activation overpotential and increased parasitic loss of reactant CO2 to the electrolyte solution. We show that a variable catalyst loading along the direction of the flow channel may improve the economics of a large scale CO2 electrolyser.