High selectivity for ethylene from carbon dioxide reduction over copper nanocube electrocatalysts

F Sloan Roberts, Kendra P Kuhl, Anders Nilsson
Angewandte Chemie 2015 April 20, 54 (17): 5179-82
Nanostructured surfaces have been shown to greatly enhance the activity and selectivity of many different catalysts. Here we report a nanostructured copper surface that gives high selectivity for ethylene formation from electrocatalytic CO2 reduction. The nanostructured copper is easily formed in situ during the CO2 reduction reaction, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) shows the surface to be dominated by cubic structures. Using online electrochemical mass spectrometry (OLEMS), the onset potentials and relative selectivity toward the volatile products (ethylene and methane) were measured for several different copper surfaces and single crystals, relating the cubic shape of the copper surface to the greatly enhanced ethylene selectivity. The ability of the cubic nanostructure to so strongly favor multicarbon product formation from CO2 reduction, and in particular ethylene over methane, is unique to this surface and is an important step toward developing a catalyst that has exclusive selectivity for multicarbon products.

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