Modulating Electric Field Distribution by Alkali Cations for CO2 Electroreduction in Strongly Acidic Medium



The reaction of carbon dioxide with hydroxide to form carbonate in near neutral or alkaline medium severely limits the energy and carbon efficiency of CO2 electroreduction. Here we show that by suppressing the otherwise predominant hydrogen evolution using alkali cations, efficient CO2 electroreduction can be conducted in acidic medium, overcoming the carbonate problem. The cation effects are general for three typical catalysts including carbon supported tin oxide, gold, and copper, leading to Faradaic efficiency of as high as 90% for formic acid and CO formation. Our analysis suggests hydrated alkali cations physisorbed on the cathode modify the distribution of electric field in the double layer, which impedes hydrogen evolution by suppress the migration of hydronium ions while at the same time promotes CO2 reduction by stabilizing key intermediates.


Thumbnail image of preprint-file.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of VID_20210323_025950.mp4
Movie S1
The RDE was inserted inclinedly from the right side of the flask, facilitating the bubbles generated on the RDE to escape