The Gas Diffusion Electrode (GDE) is a porous electrode that contains a hydrophilic and hydrophobic side. This allows the direct supply of reactive gases via the hydrophobic side to an electrochemical process in the liquid medium.

GDE is typically used to establish a well-controlled ‘three-phase interface’ between the supplied gas, the aqueous electrolyte, and the solid electrode. The solid phase can be a porous carbon (graphite/activated carbon) or metal layer, like for example copper and tin, and contain immobilized (bio/electro)catalysts. These GDE’s were recently also successfully applied for non-aqueous electrolytes.

Typical  processes that benefit from enhanced gas supply are:

  • CO2 (bio)electroreduction (electrosynthesis) at near-ambient pressure,
  • In-situ hydrogen peroxide generation,
  • Oxygen reduction in low-temperature fuel cells,
  • Organics oxidation in Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs),
  • Reclamation of metals from diluted waste streams (1-10 ppm range), without the application of additives and easy recovery of the metal oxide precipitates,
  • Electrosynthesis of nanoparticles with well-defined sizes and uniform particle size distribution.

Our offer

By partnering with VITO you get direct access to knowhow on application development using GDE in bio/electrochemical processes. VITO can supply, modify or co-develop their VITOCoRe®/VITOCaSe® electrodes for testing, with tunable geometries, porosities, compositions, and electrocatalytic activity. Custom electrocatalysts can be incorporated into the existing production process to get unique conversion properties.

Your benefits

The use of VITO’s GDE’s allows 1) the elimination of mass transport limitation: the direct feed of gaseous reactants improves mass transfer to the reaction site, 2) to conduct reactions with highly dispersed  bio- or electrocatalysts in porous matrices with intrinsic high surface areas and 3) robust operation without any leakage or breakthrough of the liquid phase.

Various levels of cooperation are possible, ranging from application testing to joint development programs

  • VITO combines know-how in both electrochemical conversion and electro-separation
  • Has developed GDE’s in different configurations (planar, tubular etc.) and already diffused samples with 10-400 cm² active area for application testing
  • Builds on experience in biocatalysis and heterogeneous catalysis, with a strong focus on electroreduction reactions to convert CO2 into chemicals
  • Has developed GDE’s up to 1 m² active area (patented)
  • Is a world-class institute for membrane technology, the development of separators (Zirfon PERL® supplied by AGFA), new separator concepts and combination of membranes with electrodes

Spark of life designer lamp

Spark of Life designer lamp using tubular VITOCoRe® GDE's (Credit: Teresa Van Dongen,

Large-Scale Segmented GDE's

Large-Scale Segmented GDE's (85 x 85 cm)

Large-Scale Segmented GDE's

Large-Scale Segmented GDE's (85 x 85 cm)

Suggested further reading

Sharma, M., Alvarez-Gallego, Y., Achouak, W., Pant, D., Sharma, P. and Dominguez-Benetton, X. 2019. Electrode material properties for designing effective microbial electrosynthesis systems. Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Hiegemann, H., Littfinski, T., Krimmler, S., Lübken, M., Klein, D., Schmelz, K.G., Ooms, K., Pant, D., Wichern, M. 2019. Performance and inorganic fouling of a submergible 255 L prototype microbial fuel cell module during continuous long-term operation with real municipal wastewater under practical conditions. Bioresource Technology. 122227.

Rossi, R., Jones, D., Myung, J., Zikmund, E., Yang, W., Gallego, Y.A., Pant, D., Evans, P.J., Page, M.A., Cropek, D.M. and Logan, B.E., 2019. Evaluating a multi-panel air cathode through electrochemical and biotic tests. Water Research. 148, pp.51-59.

Bouwman, B., van Houtven, D., Pant, D., Alvarez-Gallego, Y., Vanbroekhoven, K., 2019. Carbon based electrode with large geometric dimensions. Patent WO/2019/068488.

Srikanth, S., Singh, D., Vanbroekhoven, K., Pant, D., Kumar, M., Puri, S.K. and Ramakumar, S.S.V., 2018. Electro-biocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide to alcohols using gas diffusion electrode. Bioresource technology. 265, pp.45-51.

The project aims to develop energy storage systems and 7 CO2-conversion technologies. The latter all use input of renewable energy to transform CO2 into chemical energy carriers which can replace fossil fuels, or into specialty chemicals which can be further converted into end products such as plastics. VITO is involved in 2 technological routes: bio-electrochemical processes and the valorization of microalgae biomass.

E2C stands for ‘Electrons to high value Chemical products’. The objective of the project is to stimulate investment in and implementation of Power-to-X technologies by developing innovative conversion processes for the production of valuable fuels and platform chemicals from renewable raw materials. VITO’s involvement is mainly linked to direct conversion of electricity with CO2 to platform chemicals.

The project, which is funded by the Agentschap Innoveren en Ondernemen (VLAIO), and supported by Catalisti, has as main objective to develop technologies for the conversion of CO2 into value-added chemicals using catalysis and renewable energy. To benchmark, compare and develop the various technologies, the formation of formic acid was selected as the initial target. Out of the 4 targeted catalytic routes, VITO is mainly involved in electrochemical catalysis.