Pd-catalyzed electrohydrogenation of carbon dioxide to formate: high mass activity at low overpotential and identification of the deactivation pathway

Xiaoquan Min, Matthew W Kanan
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2015 April 15, 137 (14): 4701-8
Electrochemical reduction of CO2 to formate (HCO2(-)) powered by renewable electricity is a possible carbon-negative alternative to synthesizing formate from fossil fuels. This process is energetically inefficient because >1 V of overpotential is required for CO2 reduction to HCO2(-) on the metals currently used as cathodic catalysts. Pd reduces CO2 to HCO2(-) with no overpotential, but this activity has previously been limited to low synthesis rates and plagued by an unidentified deactivation pathway. Here we show that Pd nanoparticles dispersed on a carbon support reach high mass activities (50-80 mA HCO2(-) synthesis per mg Pd) when driven by less than 200 mV of overpotential in aqueous bicarbonate solutions. Electrokinetic measurements are consistent with a mechanism in which the rate-determining step is the addition of electrochemically generated surface adsorbed hydrogen to CO2 (i.e., electrohydrogenation). The electrodes deactivate over the course of several hours because of a minor pathway that forms CO. Activity is recovered, however, by removing CO with brief air exposure.

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