CO2 reduction at low overpotential on Cu electrodes resulting from the reduction of thick Cu2O films

Christina W Li, Matthew W Kanan
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2012 May 2, 134 (17): 7231-4
Modified Cu electrodes were prepared by annealing Cu foil in air and electrochemically reducing the resulting Cu(2)O layers. The CO(2) reduction activities of these electrodes exhibited a strong dependence on the initial thickness of the Cu(2)O layer. Thin Cu(2)O layers formed by annealing at 130 °C resulted in electrodes whose activities were indistinguishable from those of polycrystalline Cu. In contrast, Cu(2)O layers formed at 500 °C that were ≥~3 μm thick resulted in electrodes that exhibited large roughness factors and required 0.5 V less overpotential than polycrystalline Cu to reduce CO(2) at a higher rate than H(2)O. The combination of these features resulted in CO(2) reduction geometric current densities >1 mA/cm(2) at overpotentials <0.4 V, a higher level of activity than all previously reported metal electrodes evaluated under comparable conditions. Moreover, the activity of the modified electrodes was stable over the course of several hours, whereas a polycrystalline Cu electrode exhibited deactivation within 1 h under identical conditions. The electrodes described here may be particularly useful for elucidating the structural properties of Cu that determine the distribution between CO(2) and H(2)O reduction and provide a promising lead for the development of practical catalysts for electrolytic fuel synthesis.

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