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Electrocatalytic CO2 reduction: role of the cross-talk at nano-carbon interfaces
Energy & Environmental Science  (IF38.532),  Pub Date : 2021-10-21, DOI: 10.1039/d1ee00228g
Michele Melchionna, Paolo Fornasiero, Maurizio Prato, Marcella Bonchio

The electrocatalytic CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) is an interfacial process, involving a minimum of three phases at the contact point of gaseous CO2 with the electrodic surface and the liquid electrolyte. As a consequence, surface chemistry at composite interfaces plays a central role for CO2RR selectivity and catalysis. Each interface defines a functional boundary, where active sites are exposed to a unique environment, with respect to distal sites in the bulk of organic and inorganic domains. While the individual role of each component-type is hardly predictable “a-solo”, the interface ensemble works via a strategic interplay of individual effects, including: (i) enhanced electrical conductivity, (ii) high surface area and exposure of the interfacial catalytic sites, (iii) favorable diffusion and feeding of reactants, (iv) complementary interactions for the “on/off” stabilization of cascade intermediates, (v) a secondary sphere assistance to lower the activation energy of bottleneck steps, (vi) a reinforced robustness and long-term operation stability. Selected CO2RR case studies are compared and contrasted to highlight how the organic domains of carbon nanostructures merge with metal and metal-oxide active sites to separate tasks but also to turn them into a cooperative asset of mutual interactions, thus going beyond the classic “Divide et Impera” rule.