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Seminar | Materials Science Division

Mechanistic Insights into the Electrochemical Carbon Dioxide Reduction Reaction using Surface-Enhanced Infrared Spectroscopy

MSD Seminar

Abstract: The electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) is a method to convert CO2 into chemicals and fuels by using electricity generated from renewable sources. CO is an intermediate in this process, which can be split into two steps. The first is the conversion of CO2 to CO, while the second is the further reduction of CO into hydrocarbons and oxygenates.

This second step, which is known as the electrochemical CO reduction reaction (CORR), occurs on the surface of copper catalysts under alkaline conditions. The CORR produces C1 products such as methane and more commercially favorable C2+ products such as ethylene, ethanol, and n-propanol but suffers from competition from the undesirable hydrogen evolution reaction.

The goal of this work is to elucidate selectivity trends in the CO2RR with a view to developing design principles for optimizing the production of C2+ products. Effects such as reactant mass transport, copper catalyst preparation method, and the nature of the electrolyte cation can all impact the reaction selectivity. However, these effects are not well understood and remain a topic of discussion in recent literature.

In this work, we employ in situ attenuated total reflection surface enhanced infrared absorption spectroscopy coupled with reactivity studies to probe the electrochemical interface and obtain mechanistic insights into the CO2 RR pathway.