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Ultra-small Cu nanoparticles embedded in N-doped carbon arrays for electrocatalytic CO2 reduction reaction in dimethylformamide


The development of heterogeneous catalysts with a well-defined micro structure to promote their activity and stability for electrocatalytic CO2 reduction has been shown to be a promising strategy. In this work, Cu nanoparticles (∼ 4 nm in diameter) embedded in N-doped carbon (Cu@NC) arrays were fabricated by thermal decomposition of copper tetracyanoquinodimethane (CuTCNQ) under N2. Compared to polycrystalline copper electrodes, the Cu@NC arrays provide a significantly improved number of catalytically active sites. This resulted in a 0.7 V positive shift in onset potential, producing a catalytic current density an order magnitude larger at a potential of–2.7 V vs. Fc/Fc+ (Fc = ferrocene) in dimethylformamide (DMF). By controlling the water content in the DMF solvent, the CO2 reduction product distribution can be tuned. Under optimal conditions (0.5 vol% water), 64% HCOO, 20% CO, and 13% H2 were obtained. The Cu@NC arrays exhibited excellent catalytic stability with only a 0.5% decrease in the steady-state catalytic current during 6 h of electrolysis. The three-dimensional (3D) array structure of the Cu@NC was demonstrated to be effective for improving the catalytic activity of copper based catalysts while maintaining long-term catalytic stability.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge technical assistance from Mr. Philip Holt for the GC measurements and Dr. Peter Nichols for the NMR measurements. X. L. Z. acknowledges Monash University for provision of postgraduate scholarship support. The authors acknowledge the use of facilities in the Monash Centre for Electron Microscopy.

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Correspondence to Jie Zhang.

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Ultra-small Cu nanoparticles embedded in N-doped carbon arrays for electrocatalytic CO2 reduction reaction in dimethylformamide

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Zhang, X., Zhang, Y., Li, F. et al. Ultra-small Cu nanoparticles embedded in N-doped carbon arrays for electrocatalytic CO2 reduction reaction in dimethylformamide. Nano Res. 11, 3678–3690 (2018).

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  • copper tetracyanoquinodimethane (CuTCNQ)
  • copper
  • carbon arrays
  • CO2 reduction
  • electrocatalysis