A New Strategy for Early Evaluations of CO2 Utilization Technologies

– A three-step evaluation procedure based on technology readiness levels helps find the most efficient technology before allocating R&D manpower and investments in CO2 utilization technologies. –

Professor Jay Hyung Lee (left) and Dr. Kosan Roh (right)

Researchers presented a unified framework for early-stage evaluations of a variety of emerging CO2 utilization (CU) technologies. The three-step procedure allows a large number of potential CU technologies to be screened in order to identify the most promising ones, including those at low level of technical maturity, before allocating R&D manpower and investments.

When evaluating new technology, various aspects of the new technology should be considered. Its feasibility, efficiency, economic competitiveness, and environmental friendliness are crucial, and its level of technical maturity is also an important component for further consideration. However, most technology evaluation procedures are data-driven, and the amount of reliable data in the early stages of technology development has been often limited.

A research team led by Professor Jay Hyung Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST proposed a new procedure for evaluating the early development stages of emerging CU technologies which are applicable at various technology readiness levels (TRLs).

The procedure obtains performance indicators via primary data preparation, secondary data calculation, and performance indicator calculation, and the lead author of the study Dr. Kosan Roh and his colleagues presented a number of databases, methods, and computer-aided tools that can effectively facilitate the procedure.

The research team demonstrated the procedure through four case studies involving novel CU technologies of different types and at various TRLs. They confirmed the electrochemical CO2 reduction for the production of ten chemicals, the co-electrolysis of CO2 and water for ethylene production, the direct oxidation of CO2 -based methanol for oxymethylene dimethyl production, and the microalgal biomass co-firing for power generation.

The expected range of the performance indicators for low TRL technologies is broader than that for high TRL technologies, however, it is not the case for high TRL technologies as they are already at an optimized state. The research team believes that low TRL technologies will be significantly improved through future R&D until they are commercialized. “We plan to develop a systematic approach for such a comparison to help avoid misguided decision-making,” Professor Lee explained.

Professor Lee added, “This procedure allows us to conduct a comprehensive and systematic evaluation of new technology. On top of that, it helps make efficient and reliable assessment possible.”

The research team collaborated with Professor Alexander Mitsos, Professor André Bardow, and Professor Matthias Wessling at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Their findings were reported in Green Chemistry on May 21. This work was supported by the Korea Carbon Capture and Sequestration R&D Center (KCRC).

Figure 1. Overview of the procedure for the early-stage evaluation of CU technologies

Figure 2. Evaluation results of ten electrochemical CO2 conversion technologies


Roh, K., et al. (2020) ‘Early-stage evaluation of emerging CO2 utilization technologies at low technology readiness levels’ Green Chemistry. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1039/c9gc04440j

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