Surface Chemistry of Electrocatalysts for CO2 Reduction to Fuels

Wednesday, October 14, 2015: 08:40
104-B (Phoenix Convention Center)
C. X. Kronawitter, Z. Chen, P. Zhao (Princeton University), and B. E. Koel (Princeton University)
The surface chemistry of electrocatalysts for the production of fuels by CO2 reduction was explored by surface science model studies using high-resolution spectroscopy and atomic scale imaging, as well as by electrochemical analysis of active electrodes. Using an experimental surface science approach, ultrahigh vacuum conditions were used to facilitate the fabrication of highly characterizable electrode-adsorbate systems. We have utilized a range of techniques for surface analysis to determine the structure and properties of single-crystal surfaces and unique alloys formed by vapor deposition under controlled conditions. Specifically, XPS, LEIS, LEED and STM were used to characterize the composition and structure of III-V semiconductors and bimetallic model catalysts. TPD, UPS, and vibrational spectrocopy using HREELS and IRAS were used to study the binding and electronic structure of adsorbates.

Many of our experiments are designed to explain the role of the electrode surface in the high selectivity observed in pyridine and other N-heterocycle-catalyzed CO2 reduction systems. We examined the preferential adsorption sites, bonding interactions, and reactivities of these molecular catalysts and other relevant adsorbates on the surfaces of photoactive electrode materials. Ambient pressure photoemission spectroscopy (APPES), STM, and vibrational spectroscopies were used to study the interaction of water and CO2 reduction catalysts with the surfaces of III-V semiconductors.

We have applied these techniques to also study bimetallic alloy electrocatalysts.  Bimetallic alloys have been shown to exhibit lower overpotentials for CO2 reduction to fuels when compared to their metal constituents.  By tuning the composition of the alloys, one can influence the binding of adsorbates and therefore reaction selectivity.  We synthesized bimetallic surface alloys in controlled UHV environments to investigate the relationship between surface composition and electronic structure.  We studied the interaction of relevant adsorbed species with the bimetallic alloy surfaces using TPD, IRAS, HREELS, and UPS to begin to understand the surface chemistry of these electrodes.

In parallel to these surface science investigations, we studied the electrochemical behavior of single crystals and bimetallic alloys.  The purpose of these studies is to correlate CO2 reduction product selectivity to the quantitative measurements of surface chemistry made in UHV discussed above.  Specifically we examined the relationship between electrochemical activity, surface composition, and the binding strengths of intermediates along CO2 reduction pathways. This work aids development of a molecular-level understanding of the heterogeneous processes involved the reaction mechanisms of efficient electrocatalytic fuel generation.

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Award Number DE-SC0012455.