Cu3N Nanocubes for Selective Electrochemical Reduction of CO2 to Ethylene

Understanding the Cu-catalyzed electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) under ambient conditions is both fundamentally interesting and technologically important for selective CO2RR to hydrocarbons. Current Cu catalysts studied for the CO2RR can show high activity but tend to yield a mixture of different hydrocarbons, posing a serious challenge on using any of these catalysts for selective CO2RR. Here, we report a new perovskite-type copper­(I) nitride (Cu3N) nanocube (NC) catalyst for selective CO2RR. The 25 nm Cu3N NCs show high CO2RR selectivity and stability to ethylene (C2H4) at −1.6 V (vs reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE)) with the Faradaic efficiency of 60%, mass activity of 34 A/g, and C2H4/CH4 molar ratio of >2000. More detailed electrochemical characterization, X-ray photon spectroscopy, and density functional theory calculations suggest that the high CO2RR selectivity is likely a result of (100) Cu­(I) stabilization by the Cu3N structure, which favors CO–CHO coupling on the (100) Cu3N surface, leading to selective formation of C2H4. Our study presents a good example of utilizing metal nitrides as highly efficient nanocatalysts for selective CO2RR to hydrocarbons that will be important for sustainable chemistry/energy applications.