Hydrophobic molecular assembly at the gas-liquid-solid interface drives highly selective CO2 electromethanation

07 February 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The modularity of molecular catalysts enables the tuning of both active site and peripheral units to maximize functionality, thus rendering them as ideal model systems to explore fundamental concepts in catalysis. Hydrophobicity is often regarded as an undesirable aspect that hinders their dissolution in aqueous electrolytes. In contrast, we modified established Co terpyridine catalysts with hydrophobic perfluorinated alkyl side chains and took advantage of their hydrophobic character by utilizing them not as dissolved species in an aqueous electrolyte but at the gas-liquid-solid interfaces on a gas diffusion electrode (GDE) applied towards the electrochemical reduction of CO2. We found that the self-assembly of these perfluorinated units on the GDE surface results in a catalytic system selective for CH4 production, whereas every other Co terpyridine catalyst reported before was only selective for CO or formate. An array of mechanistic and operando spectroscopic investigations suggests a mechanism in which the pyridine units function as proton shuttles that deliver protons to the dynamic hydrophobic pocket in which CO2 reduction takes place. Finally, optimizing the system by integrating fluorinated carbon nanotubes as a hydrophobic conductive scaffold leads to a Faradaic efficiency for CH4 production above 80% at rates above 10 mA/cm2, thus far unprecedented for a molecular electrocatalytic system.


CO2 Reduction
Reaction Mechanisms
Operando Spectroscopy
Molecular Films


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.