Accelerating CO2 Electroreduction to Multicarbon Products via Synergistic Electric–Thermal Field on Copper Nanoneedles


Electrochemical CO2 reduction is a promising way to mitigate CO2 emissions and close the anthropogenic carbon cycle. Among products from CO2RR, multicarbon chemicals, such as ethylene and ethanol with high energy density, are more valuable. However, the selectivity and reaction rate of C2 production are unsatisfactory due to the sluggish thermodynamics and kinetics of C–C coupling.

The electric field and thermal field have been studied and utilized to promote catalytic reactions, as they can regulate the thermodynamic and kinetic barriers of reactions. Either raising the potential or heating the electrolyte can enhance C–C coupling, but these come at the cost of increasing side reactions, such as the hydrogen evolution reaction. Here, we present a generic strategy to enhance the local electric field and temperature simultaneously and dramatically improve the electric–thermal synergy desired in electrocatalysis. A conformal coating of ∼5 nm of polytetrafluoroethylene significantly improves the catalytic ability of copper nanoneedles (∼7-fold electric field and ∼40 K temperature enhancement at the tips compared with bare copper nanoneedles experimentally), resulting in an improved C2 Faradaic efficiency of over 86% at a partial current density of more than 250 mA cm–2 and a record-high C2 turnover frequency of 11.5 ± 0.3 s–1 Cu site–1. Combined with its low cost and scalability, the electric–thermal strategy for a state-of-the-art catalyst not only offers new insight into improving activity and selectivity of value-added C2 products as we demonstrated but also inspires advances in efficiency and/or selectivity of other valuable electro-/photocatalysis such as hydrogen evolution, nitrogen reduction, and hydrogen peroxide electrosynthesis.