Nat Commun. 2022 Oct 3;13(1):5840. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-33620-2.
Deoxygenation of aldehydes and their tautomers to alkenes and alkanes has implications in refining biomass-derived fuels for use as transportation fuel. Electrochemical deoxygenation in ambient, aqueous solution is also a potential green synthesis strategy for terminal olefins. In this manuscript, direct electrochemical conversion of vinyl alcohol and acetaldehyde on polycrystalline Cu to ethanol, ethylene and ethane; and propenol and propionaldehyde to propanol, propene and propane is reported. Sensitive detection was achieved using a rotating disk electrode coupled with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. In-situ attenuated total reflection surface-enhanced infrared absorption spectroscopy, and in-situ Raman spectroscopy confirmed the adsorption of the vinyl alcohol. Calculations using canonical and grand-canonical density functional theory and experimental findings suggest that the rate-determining step for ethylene and ethane formation is an electron transfer step to the adsorbed vinyl alcohol. Finally, we extend our conclusions to the enol reaction from higher-order soluble aldehyde and ketone. The products observed from the reduction reaction also sheds insights into plausible reaction pathways of CO2 to C2 and C3 products.