Mech­a­nism to Un­der­stand CO Con­ver­sion Us­ing Elec­tro­cat­a­lysts

Chemical Industry Digest - - New Developments -

New re­search pub­lished in Na­ture Catal­y­sis by re­searchers at the Univer­sity's De­part­ment of Chem­istry, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bei­jing Com­pu­ta­tional Sci­ence Re­search Cen­ter and STFC Rutherford Appleton Lab­o­ra­tory, demon­strated a laser-based spec­troscopy tech­nique that can be used to study the elec­tro­chem­i­cal re­duc­tion of CO in-situ 2 and pro­vide much-needed in­sights into these com­plex chem­i­cal path­ways. The re­searchers used a tech­nique called Vi­bra­tional Sum-Fre­quency Gen­er­a­tion (VSFG) spec­troscopy cou­pled with elec­tro­chem­i­cal ex­per­i­ments to ex­plore the chem­istry of a par­tic­u­lar cat­a­lyst called Mn(bpy)(CO) Br, which is one of the 3 most promis­ing and in­tensely stud­ied CO re­duc­tion 2 elec­tro­cat­a­lysts.

Us­ing VSFG the re­searchers were able to ob­serve key in­ter­me­di­ates that are only present on the elec­trode sur­face for a very short time - some­thing that has not been achieved in pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­men­tal stud­ies. Ear­lier it was a huge chal­lenge to dis­crim­i­nate be­tween the sin­gle layer of short-lived in­ter­me­di­ate mol­e­cules at the elec­trode sur­face and the sur­round­ing ' noise' from in­ac­tive mol­e­cules in the so­lu­tion.

VSFG made it pos­si­ble to fol­low the be­hav­iour of even very short-lived species in the cat­alytic cy­cle. And with this it has opened a new op­por­tu­nity to bet­ter un­der­stand how elec­tro­cat­a­lysts op­er­ate, which is an im­por­tant next step to­wards com­mer­cial­is­ing the process of elec­tro­chem­i­cal CO con­ver­sa­tion into clean 2 fuel tech­nolo­gies.

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