To date, copper is the only heterogeneous catalyst that has shown a propensity to produce valuable hydrocarbons and alcohols, such as ethylene and ethanol, from electrochemical CO2 reduction (CO2R). There are variety of factors that impact CO2R activity and selectivity, including the catalyst surface structure, morphology, composition, the choice of electrolyte ions and pH, and the electrochemical cell design. Many of these factors are often intertwined, which can complicate catalyst discovery and design efforts. Here we take a broad and historical view of these different aspects and their complex interplay in CO2R catalysis on Cu, with the purpose of providing new insights, critical evaluations, and guidance to the field with regard to research directions and best practices. First, we describe the various experimental probes and complementary theoretical methods that have been used to discern the mechanisms by which products are formed, and next we present our current understanding of the complex reaction networks for CO2R on Cu. We then analyze two key methods that have been used in attempts to alter the activity and selectivity of Cu: nanostructuring and the formation of bimetallic electrodes. Finally, we offer some perspectives on the future outlook for electrochemical CO2R.
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- High-rate and selective conversion of CO2 from aqueous solutions to hydrocarbons
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