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An overarching challenge of electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction reaction (eCO2RR) is to find a highly active catalyst that can produce hydrocarbons at a high current density and a relatively low overpotential. In a recent study published in Nature Communications, Prof. Asadi and his research team at Illinois Tech have discovered a new class of catalysts that effectively converts CO2 to hydrocarbons such as methane (CH4), ethylene (C2H4), methanol (CH3OH), and ethanol (C2H5OH) at remarkably high current density (reaction rate) and faradaic efficiency (selectivity) beating the performance of gold in activity and copper in selectivity known to be state-of-the-art catalysts for eCO2RR.

Figure: Left: In-situ differential electrochemical mass spectrometry (DEMS) setup used in this study. Right: The CO2 partial pressure as a function of potential and corresponding LSV result (inset) are shown for W2C nanoflakes as the catalyst for eCO2RR.

They have developed a zero-gap flow electrolyzer for eCO2RR using di-tungsten carbide (W2C) nanoflakes as the cathode catalyst with superior current density of 548.89 mA/cm2 at 2.3 V, CH4 selectivity of 82.7 and long-term stability of 700 hours. A CO2RR onset potential of 12.7 mV is also obtained by using a real time differential electrochemical mass spectroscopy (DEMS; HPR-40 purchased from Hiden Analytical).

A combined experimental and computational study in collaboration with scientists at Molecular Foundry, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reveled that chemisorption of CO2 and cleavage of the C-O bond at the tungsten surface atoms become nearly spontaneous resulting in the observed superior electrocatalytic performance of the W2C catalyst.

Project summary by: Mohammad Asadi, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL, USA

Paper Reference: “Gold-like activity copper-like selectivity of heteroatomic transition metal carbides for electrocatalytic carbon dioxide reduction reaction” Nature Communications (2021) 12, 5067 doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25295-y

Hiden Product: HPR-40 DEMS

Project Summary Reference: AP-DEMS-202102

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