Tuning Product Selectivity for Aqueous CO2 Reduction with a Mn(bipyridine)-pyrene Catalyst Immobilized on a Carbon Nanotube Electrode

07 Nov 2017

The development of high-performance electrocatalytic systems for the controlled reduction of CO2 to value-added chemicals is a key goal in emerging renewable energy technologies. The lack of selective and scalable catalysts in aqueous solution currently hampers the implementation of such a process. Here, the assembly of a [MnBr(2,2′-bipyridine)(CO)3] complex anchored to a carbon nanotube electrode via a pyrene unit is reported. Immobilization of the molecular catalyst allows electrocatalytic reduction of CO2 under fully aqueous conditions with a catalytic onset overpotential of η = 360 mV, and controlled potential electrolysis generated more than 1000 turnovers at η = 550 mV. The product selectivity can be tuned by alteration of the catalyst loading on the nanotube surface. CO was observed as the main product at high catalyst loadings, whereas formate was the dominant CO2 reduction product at low catalyst loadings. Using UV–vis and surface-sensitive IR spectroelectrochemical techniques, two different intermediates were identified as responsible for the change in selectivity of the heterogenized Mn catalyst. The formation of a dimeric Mn0 species at higher surface loading was shown to preferentially lead to CO formation, whereas at lower surface loading the electrochemical generation of a monomeric Mn-hydride is suggested to greatly enhance the production of formate. These results emphasize the advantages of integrating molecular catalysts onto electrode surfaces for enhancing catalytic activity while allowing excellent control and a deeper understanding of the catalytic mechanisms.