Activation of CO2 on Copper Surfaces: The Synergy Between Electric Field, Surface Morphology and Excess Electrons

In this work we use DFT calculations to study the combined effect of external electric fields, surface morphology and surface charge on CO2 activation over Cu (111), Cu (211), Cu (110) and Cu (001) surfaces. We observe that the binding energy of the CO2 molecule on Cu surfaces rises significantly upon increasing the applied electric field strength. In addition, rougher surfaces respond more effectively to the presence of the external electric field towards facilitating the formation of a carbonate-like CO2 structure and the transformation of the most stable adsorption mode from physisorption to chemisorption. The presence of surface charges further strengthens the electric field effect and consequently gives rise to an improved bending of the CO2 molecule and C-O bond length elongation. On the other hand, a net charge in the absence of externally applied electric field shows only a marginal effect on CO2 binding. The chemisorbed CO2 is more stable and further activated when the effects of an external electric field, rough surface and surface charge are combined. These results can help to elucidate the underlying factors that control CO2 activation in heterogeneous and plasma catalysis, as well as in electrochemical processes.