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Closing the Carbon Cycle by Electrochemical Reduction

Date: 2018-06-29 09:31:50.0
Author: University of Science and Technology of China

The multi-institutional team led by Prof. YU Shuhong (USTC) and Prof. Edward H. Sargent (University of Toronto) have shed new lights on the topic of upgrading carbon dioxide to engine fuels. Researchers uncovered a heterogeneous catalysis strategy that deliberately targets post-C-C coupling reaction intermediates during CO2 electrochemical reduction reaction. It opens avenues to the design of efficient catalysts that selectively produce higher-carbon liquid alcohols.

The research article entitled “Steering post-C-C coupling selectivity enables high efficiency electroreduction of carbon dioxide to multi-carbon alcohols” was published in Nature Catalysis (Zhuang, T.-T. et al. Nat. Catal. 2018, 1, 421-428) on Jun 11th.

Electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) to value-added carbon-based chemical feedstocks addresses the need for long-term storage of renewable electricity and decarbonization of the transportation sector. Liquid multi-carbon alcohols such as ethanol and n-propanol are desired as renewable transportation fuels. They offer high energy densities, ease of long-range transport, and direct drop-in usage in existing internal combustion engines.

Engineering copper-based catalysts that favor high-value alcohols is desired. In the design of catalysts, much progress has been made to target deliberately the C-C coupling step; while comparatively little effort has been expended to target post-C-C coupling reaction intermediates.

By deliberately incorporating sulfur atoms in the catalyst core, and copper vacancies in its shell, researchers realized Cu2S-Cu-V core-shell nanoparticles that enhance CO2 reduction to ethanol and propanol. Structural characterization, x-ray studies, and electrochemical measurements attest to the role of catalyst in improving catalytic performance. These findings elaborate a new catalytic approach that targets the suppression of unwanted C2, rather than just C1, products.

This work was supported by Foundation for Innovative Research Groups of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, CAS, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Basic Research Program of China, Collaborative Innovation Center of Suzhou Nano Science and Technology, CAS Center for Excellence in Nanoscience, the Users with Excellence and Scientific Research Grant of Hefei Science Center of CAS, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, the Ontario Research Fund Research-Excellence Program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, the CIFAR Bio-Inspired Solar Energy program, University of Toronto Connaught grant, and KAUST.

About the University of Science and Technology of China

The University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) is a prominent university in China and enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide. It was established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 1958 in Beijing, as a strategic action by the Chinese government, to meet China’s science and technology needs and increases the country’s international competitiveness.

For further information about the University of Science and Technology of China, please visit the website here.

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