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Interfacial chemistry in the electrocatalytic hydrogenation of CO2 over C‑supported Cu-based systems

Gianolio, Diego, Higham, Michael D., Quesne, Matthew G., Aramini, Matteo, Xu, Ruoyu, Large, Alex I., Held, Georg, Velasco-Vélez, Juan-Jesús, Haevecker, Michael, Knop-Gericke, Axel, Genovese, Chiara, Ampelli, Claudio, Schuster, Manfred Erwin, Perathoner, Siglinda, Centi, Gabriele, Catlow, Richard ORCID: and Arrigo, Rosa 2023. Interfacial chemistry in the electrocatalytic hydrogenation of CO2 over C‑supported Cu-based systems. ACS Catalysis 13 (9) , pp. 5876-5895. 10.1021/acscatal.3c01288

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Operando soft and hard X-ray spectroscopic techniques were used in combination with plane-wave density functional theory (DFT) simulations to rationalize the enhanced activities of Zn-containing Cu nanostructured electrocatalysts in the electrocatalytic CO2 hydrogenation reaction. We show that at a potential for CO2 hydrogenation, Zn is alloyed with Cu in the bulk of the nanoparticles with no metallic Zn segregated; at the interface, low reducible Cu­(I)–O species are consumed. Additional spectroscopic features are observed, which are identified as various surface Cu­(I) ligated species; these respond to the potential, revealing characteristic interfacial dynamics. Similar behavior was observed for the Fe–Cu system in its active state, confirming the general validity of this mechanism; however, the performance of this system deteriorates after successive applied cathodic potentials, as the hydrogen evolution reaction then becomes the main reaction pathway. In contrast to an active system, Cu­(I)–O is now consumed at cathodic potentials and not reversibly reformed when the voltage is allowed to equilibrate at the open-circuit voltage; rather, only the oxidation to Cu­(II) is observed. We show that the Cu–Zn system represents the optimal active ensembles with stabilized Cu­(I)–O; DFT simulations rationalize this observation by indicating that Cu–Zn–O neighboring atoms are able to activate CO2, whereas Cu–Cu sites provide the supply of H atoms for the hydrogenation reaction. Our results demonstrate an electronic effect exerted by the heterometal, which depends on its intimate distribution within the Cu phase and confirms the general validity of these mechanistic insights for future electrocatalyst design strategies.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Chemistry
Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI)
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Start Date: 2023-04-14
Publisher: American Chemical Society
ISSN: 2155-5435
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 May 2023
Date of Acceptance: 4 April 2023
Last Modified: 22 May 2023 22:40

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