Reaction mechanisms of CO2 electrochemical reduction on Cu(1 1 1) determined with density functional theory

Xiaowa Nie, Wenjia Luo, Michael J. Janik, Aravind Asthagiri

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391 Scopus citations


Density functional theory (DFT) was used to determine the potential-dependent reaction free energies and activation barriers for several reaction paths of carbon dioxide (CO2) electrochemical reduction on the Cu(1 1 1) surface. The role of water solvation on CO2 reduction paths was explored by evaluating water-assisted surface hydrogenation and proton (H) shuttling with various solvation models. Electrochemical OH bond formation reactions occur through water-assisted H-shuttling, whereas CH bond formation occurs with negligible H2O involvement via direct reaction with adsorbed H* on the Cu(1 1 1) surface. The DFT-computed kinetic path shows that the experimentally observed production of methane and ethylene on Cu(1 1 1) catalysts occurs through the reduction of carbon monoxide (CO*) to a hydroxymethylidyne (COH*) intermediate. Methane is produced from the reduction of the COH* to C* and then sequential hydrogenation. Ethylene production shares the COH* path with methane production, where the methane to ethylene selectivity depends on CH2â̂ - and H* coverages. The reported potential-dependent activation barriers provide kinetics consistent with observed experimental reduction overpotentials and selectivity to methane and ethylene over methanol for the electroreduction of CO2 on Cu catalysts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-122
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Catalysis
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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