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Theory-Guided Enhancement of CO2 Reduction to Ethanol on Ag–Cu Tandem Catalysts via Particle-Size Effects
ACS Catalysis  (IF13.084),  Pub Date : 2021-10-18, DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.1c03717
Pranit Iyengar, Manuel J. Kolb, James Pankhurst, Federico Calle-Vallejo, Raffaella Buonsanti

In the CO2 reduction reaction, the design of electrocatalysts that selectively promote alcohols over hydrocarbons (e.g., ethanol over ethylene) hinges on the understanding of the pathways and specific sites that form alcohols. Herein, theoretical considerations guide state-of-the-art synthesis of well-defined catalysts to show that higher selectivity toward ethanol is achieved on Cu(110) edge sites compared to Cu(100) terraces. Specifically, we study the catalytic behavior of Cu nano-cubes (Cucub) of different sizes in the framework of tandem catalysis with CO-producing Ag nano-spheres. We predict and experimentally find that the smaller Cucub possess higher selectivity for ethanol in view of their larger edge-to-faces ratio and of the fact that ethylene is produced at terraces while ethanol is selectively produced at step edges. These results call for synthetic developments toward Cu nanostructures exposing only edge sites, such as hollow cubic nanocages, to further increase ethanol selectivity. More generally, this study encourages the application of well-defined nano catalysts as a bridge between theory and experiments in electrocatalysis.