Engineering Cu surfaces for the electrocatalytic conversion of CO2: Controlling selectivity toward oxygenates and hydrocarbons

Christopher Hahn, Toru Hatsukade, Youn-Geun Kim, Arturas Vailionis, Jack H. Baricuatro, Drew C. Higgins, Stephanie A. Nitopi, Manuel P. Soriaga, Thomas F. Jaramillo
Year of publication: 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

In this study we control the surface structure of Cu thin-film catalysts to probe the relationship between active sites and catalytic activity for the electroreduction of CO2 to fuels and chemicals. Here, we report physical vapor deposition of Cu thin films on large-format (∼6 cm2) single-crystal substrates, and confirm epitaxial growth in the <100>, <111>, and <751> orientations using X-ray pole figures. To understand the relationship between the bulk and surface structures, in situ electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy was conducted on Cu(100), (111), and (751) thin films. The studies revealed that Cu(100) and (111) have surface adlattices that are identical to the bulk structure, and that Cu(751) has a heterogeneous kinked surface with (110) terraces that is closely related to the bulk structure. Electrochemical CO2 reduction testing showed that whereas both Cu(100) and (751) thin films are more active and selective for C–C coupling than Cu(111), Cu(751) is the most selective for >2e oxygenate formation at low overpotentials. Our results demonstrate that epitaxy can be used to grow single-crystal analogous materials as large-format electrodes that provide insights on controlling electrocatalytic activity and selectivity for this reaction.

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