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A Molecular Surface Functionalization Approach to Tuning Nanoparticle Electrocatalysts for Carbon Dioxide Reduction


Conversion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) to value-added products is an important challenge for sustainable energy research, and nanomaterials offer a broad class of heterogeneous catalysts for such transformations. Here we report a molecular surface functionalization approach to tuning gold nanoparticle (Au NP) electrocatalysts for reduction of CO2 to CO. The N-heterocyclic (NHC) carbene-functionalized Au NP catalyst exhibits improved faradaic efficiency (FE = 83%) for reduction of CO2 to CO in water at neutral pH at an overpotential of 0.46 V with a 7.6-fold increase in current density compared to that of the parent Au NP (FE = 53%). Tafel plots of the NHC carbene-functionalized Au NP (72 mV/decade) vs parent Au NP (138 mV/decade) systems further show that the molecular ligand influences mechanistic pathways for CO2 reduction. The results establish molecular surface functionalization as a complementary approach to size, shape, composition, and defect control for nanoparticle catalyst design.

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