A multidisciplinary team of users at the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) created copper-derived electrocatalysts that efficiently produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide (CO) gas at room temperature and pressure.
Oxide-derived Cu (OD-Cu) electrocatalysts exhibit a 10x improvement over conventional CO reduction catalysts and demonstrate the feasibility of a two-step conversion of CO2 to liquid fuel at low applied voltages.
Ethanol is a liquid fuel, typically produced by high temperature biomass fermentation, resulting in low production efficiencies.
While many catalysts can reduce CO2 to CO, copper is one of the few materials capable of converting CO to ethanol. However, conventional copper is very inefficient.
OD-Cu catalysts form a continuous nanocrystalline framework with well-defined grain boundaries between Cu nanoparticles – revealed by NCEM’s TEAM 0.5 microscope, which suppresses interface delocalization – that are believed to result in the increased catalytic efficiencies.