Accelerating electrochemical CO2 reduction to multi-carbon products via asymmetric intermediate binding at confined nanointerfaces

Nat Commun. 2023 Mar 9;14(1):1298. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-36926-x.


Electrochemical CO2 reduction (CO2R) to ethylene and ethanol enables the long-term storage of renewable electricity in valuable multi-carbon (C2+) chemicals. However, carbon-carbon (C-C) coupling, the rate-determining step in CO2R to C2+ conversion, has low efficiency and poor stability, especially in acid conditions. Here we find that, through alloying strategies, neighbouring binary sites enable asymmetric CO binding energies to promote CO2-to-C2+ electroreduction beyond the scaling-relation-determined activity limits on single-metal surfaces. We fabricate experimentally a series of Zn incorporated Cu catalysts that show increased asymmetric CO* binding and surface CO* coverage for fast C-C coupling and the consequent hydrogenation under electrochemical reduction conditions. Further optimization of the reaction environment at nanointerfaces suppresses hydrogen evolution and improves CO2 utilization under acidic conditions. We achieve, as a result, a high 31 ± 2% single-pass CO2-to-C2+ yield in a mild-acid pH 4 electrolyte with >80% single-pass CO2 utilization efficiency. In a single CO2R flow cell electrolyzer, we realize a combined performance of 91 ± 2% C2+ Faradaic efficiency with notable 73 ± 2% ethylene Faradaic efficiency, 31 ± 2% full-cell C2+ energy efficiency, and 24 ± 1% single-pass CO2 conversion at a commercially relevant current density of 150 mA cm-2 over 150 h.

PMID:36894571 | PMC:PMC9998885 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-023-36926-x


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