NHC-CDI Ligands Boost Multicarbon Production in Electrocatalytic CO2 Reduction by Increasing Accumulated Charged Intermediates and Promoting *CO Dimerization on Cu

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Abstract

Copper-based materials exhibit significant potential as catalysts for electrochemical CO2 reduction, owing to their capacity to generate multicarbon hydrocarbons. The molecular functionalization of Cu electrodes represents a simple yet powerful strategy for improving the intrinsic activity of these materials by favoring specific reaction pathways through the creation of tailored microenvironments around the surface active sites. However, despite its success, comprehensive mechanistic insights derived from experimental techniques are often limited, leaving the active role of surface modifiers inconclusive. In this work, we show that N-heterocyclic carbene-carbodiimide-functionalized Cu catalysts display a remarkable activity for multicarbon product formation, surpassing bare Cu electrodes by more than an order of magnitude. These hybrid catalysts operate efficiently using an electrolyzer equipped with a gas diffusion electrode, achieving a multicarbon product selectivity of 58% with a partial current density of ca. -80 mA cm-2. We found that the activity for multicarbon product formation is closely linked to the surface charge that accumulates during electrocatalysis, stemming from surface intermediate buildup. Through X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, we elucidated the role of the molecular additives in altering the electronic structure of the Cu electrodes, promoting the stabilization of surface CO. Additionally, in situ Raman measurements established the identity of the reaction intermediates that accumulate during electrocatalysis, indicating preferential CO binding on Cu step sites, known for facilitating C-C coupling. This study underscores the significant potential of molecular surface modifications in developing efficient electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction, highlighting surface charge as a pivotal descriptor of multicarbon product activity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Volume146
Issue19
Pages (from-to)13034-13045
Number of pages12
ISSN0002-7863
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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