CO2 Reduction to Propanol by Copper Foams: A Pre- and Post-Catalysis Study

The utilization of carbon dioxide is a major incentive for the growing field of carbon capture. Carbon dioxide could be an abundant building block to generate higher value products. Herein, we describe the use of porous copper electrodes to catalyze the reduction of carbon dioxide into higher value products such as ethylene, ethanol and, notably, propanol. For n-propanol production, faradaic efficiencies reach 4.93% at -0.83 V vs RHE, with a geometric partial current density of -1.85 mA/cm2. We have documented the performance of the catalyst in both pristine and urea-modified foams pre- and post-electrolysis. Before electrolysis, the copper electrode consisted of a mixture of cuboctahedra and dendrites. After 35-minute electrolysis, the cuboctahedra and dendrites have undergone structural rearrangement. Changes in the interaction of urea with the catalyst surface have also been observed. These transformations were characterized ex-situ using scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. We found that alterations in the morphology, crystallinity, and surface composition of the catalyst led to the deactivation of the copper foams.