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Approaching 100% Selectivity at Low Potential on Ag for Electrochemical CO2 Reduction to CO Using a Surface Additive


We report the discovery of a quaternary ammonium surface additive for CO2 reduction on Ag surfaces that changes the Faradaic efficiency for CO from 25% on Ag foil to 97%, while increasing the current density for CO production by a factor of 9 from 0.14 to 1.21 mA/cm2 and reducing the current density for H2 production by a factor of 440 from 0.44 to 0.001 mA/cm2. Using ReaxFF reactive molecular dynamics, we find that the surface additive with the highest selectivity, dihexadecyldimethylammonium bromide, promotes substantial population of CO2 near the Ag surface along with sufficient H2O to activate the CO2. While a critical number of water molecules is required in the reduction of CO2 to CO, the trend in selectivity strongly correlates with the availability of CO2 molecules. We demonstrate that the ordering of the cationic modifiers plays a significant role around the active site, thus determining reaction selectivity. The dramatic improvement by addition of a simple surface additive suggests an additional strategy in electrocatalysis.

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