Operando surface chemistry of micro- and nanocubic copper catalysts for electrochemical CO2 reduction

15 September 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The electrochemical reduction of CO2 (CO2RR) into multicarbon compounds is a promising pathway towards renewable chemicals. Structure-product selectivity studies highlight that copper (100) facets favour C2+ product formation. However, the atomic processes leading to the formation of (100)-rich Cu cubes remains elusive. Herein, we use Cu and graphene-protected Cu surfaces to reveal the differences in structure and composition of common Cu-based electrocatalysts, from nano to micrometer scales. We show that stripping/electrodeposition cycles lead to thermodynamically controlled growth of Cu2O micro/nanocubes, while multi-layered Cu nanocuboids form universally during CO2RR upon polarization-driven re-organization of Cu0 atoms. A synergy of electrochemical characterization by scanning tunnelling microscopy (EC-STM), operando EC-Raman and quasi-operando X-Ray Photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) allows us to shed light on the role of oxygen on the dynamic interfacial processes of Cu, and to demonstrate that chloride is not needed for the stabilization of cubic Cu nanostructures.


CO2 reduction
Surface dynamics
Operando characterization

Supplementary materials

Operando surface chemistry of micro- and nanocubic copper catalysts for electrochemical CO2 reduction: SI
Supplementary Information: additional SEM, AFM, and STM images, Raman and XPS data, methods.


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