Electrons to Molecules

Electrons to molecules focuses on electricity-driven processes for future generation of renewable hydrogen, net-zero fuels, chemicals, and materials.

Science background with colorful molecule models.

NREL is exploring the use of renewable, affordable electricity as the driving force for the conversion of low-energy molecules—such as water and carbon dioxide (CO2)—to generate higher-value, higher-energy chemicals, materials, and fuels as end-use products or as a means toward energy storage. This combination of producing goods and materials more sustainably with end-of-useful-life circularity in mind will drive a more sustainable future economy capable of meeting the world’s needs in a manner that leaves the environment and the planet healthy for generations to come.

Watch how electrons to molecules is focused on the acceleration and scaling of innovations toward commercially viable solutions crucial to achieving economy-wide, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Achieving Our Vision

NREL is prepared to lead the research on the conversion of electricity and materials such as CO2 and water into high-value chemical precursors. Researchers are developing efficient, electricity-driven processes that transform these readily available and low-cost materials into reactive intermediates. They are coupling them with biological or catalytic processes to generate compounds to make plastics, fibers, and fuels.

Besides the conversion of CO2 and water, NREL also will investigate the use of electricity-driven processes to convert other materials such as nitrogen to green ammonia, transform fossil fuels and biomass into chemicals, deconstruct plastics for recycling and reuse, and refine ores to generate metals.

Key research areas include:

  • Renewable hydrogen
  • Reactive capture and conversion of CO2
  • Generation of net-zero carbon fuels
  • Decarbonizing industry process and production of goods and materials.

Transforming Energy Through Partnerships

Working with industry, government, research, and nonprofit partners, we can achieve our vision of a clean energy future for the world far faster and more efficiently than working on them alone. NREL is committed to ensuring our research gets to market—where it can improve everyday life and strengthen our economy. Learn more about working with NREL.