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Insights into C[BOND]C Coupling in CO2 Electroreduction on Copper Electrodes

Authors

  • Joseph H. Montoya,

    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stauffer III, 381 North-South Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 (USA), Fax: (001) 650-926-4100
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  • Prof. Andrew A. Peterson,

    1. School of Engineering, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912 (USA)
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  • Prof. Jens K. Nørskov

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stauffer III, 381 North-South Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 (USA), Fax: (001) 650-926-4100
    2. SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, 2575 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025 (USA)
    • Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stauffer III, 381 North-South Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 (USA), Fax: (001) 650-926-4100
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Abstract

We present a first-principles theoretical study of carbon–carbon coupling in CO2 electroreduction on the copper 2 1 1 surface. Using DFT, we have determined kinetic barriers to the formation of a C[BOND]C bond between adsorbates derived from CO. The results of our nudged elastic band calculations demonstrate that kinetic barriers to C[BOND]C coupling decrease significantly with the degree of hydrogenation of reacting adsorbates. We also show that this trend is not affected by the electrical fields present at the solid-electrolyte interface during electrocatalysis. Our results explain how copper can catalyze the production of higher hydrocarbons and oxygenates in the electrochemical environment, despite producing only single carbon atom products in gas-phase catalysis, and how C[BOND]C bonds can be formed at room temperature in the electrochemical environment, whereas substantially higher temperatures are needed in the Fischer–Tropsch catalysis. The unique feature of the electrochemical environment is that the chemical potential of hydrogen (electrons and protons) can be varied through the applied potential. This allows a variation of the degree of hydrogenation of the reactants and thus the activation barrier for C[BOND]C coupling.

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