Electrochemical decarboxylation of acetic acid on boron-doped diamond and platinum functionalised electrodes for pyrolysis-oil treatment

Talal Ashraf, Ainoa Paradelo Rodriguez, Bastian Timo Mei*, Guido Mul

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Electrochemical decarboxylation of acetic acid on boron-doped-diamond (BDD) electrodes was studied as a possible means to decrease the acidity of pyrolysis oil. It is shown that decarboxylation occurs without the competitive oxygen evolution reaction (OER) on BDD electrodes to form methanol and methyl acetate by consecutive reaction of hydroxyl radicals with acetic acid. The performance is little affected by the applied current density (and associated potential), concentration, and the pH of the solution. At current densities above 50 mA cm −2, faradaic efficiencies (FEs) of 90% towards the decarboxylation products are obtained, confirmed by in situ electrochemical mass spectrometry (ECMS) investigation showing only small amounts of oxygen formed by water oxidation. Using platinum-modified BDD electrodes, it is shown that selectivity to ethane, the Kolbe product, strongly depends on the shape and geometry of the platinum particles. Using nano-thorn-like Pt particles, a faradaic efficiency of approx. 40% towards ethane can be obtained, whereas 3D porous platinum nanoparticles showed high selectivity towards the OER. Using thin platinum layers, a high FE of >70% towards ethane was obtained, which is thickness-independent at layer thicknesses above 20 nm. Comparison with other substrates revealed that BDD is an ideal support for Pt functionalisation, giving advantages of stability and high-value-product formation (ethane and methanol). In short, this work provides guidelines for electrode fabrication in the context of the electrochemical upgrading of biomass feedstocks by acid decarboxylation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-269
Number of pages16
JournalFaraday Discussions
Early online date5 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 5 Apr 2023


  • (non)Kolbe electrolysis
  • Electrodeposition
  • Carboxylic acid decarboxylation
  • Boron doped diamond
  • Oxygen evolution reaction (OER)
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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