The solar-driven electrochemical reduction of CO2 to fuels and chemicals provides a promising way for closing the anthropogenic carbon cycle. However, the lack of selective and Earth-abundant catalysts able to achieve the desired transformation reactions in an aqueous matrix presents a substantial impediment as of today. Here we introduce atomic layer deposition of SnO2 on CuO nanowires as a means for changing the wide product distribution of CuO-derived CO2 reduction electrocatalysts to yield predominantly CO. The activity of this catalyst towards oxygen evolution enables us to use it both as the cathode and anode for complete CO2 electrolysis. In the resulting device, the electrodes are separated by a bipolar membrane, allowing each half-reaction to run in its optimal electrolyte environment. Using a GaInP/GaInAs/Ge photovoltaic we achieve the solar-driven splitting of CO2 into CO and oxygen with a bifunctional, sustainable and all Earth-abundant system at an efficiency of 13.4%.
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The authors acknowledge L. Pan for experimental help during revision, K. V. Thomas and S. Coudret for ICP-MS analysis, P. Mettraux for XPS analysis, M. Söderlund and H. Tholense (Beneq, Finland) for FBR-ALD depositions and D. Alexander for aberration-corrected STEM data. This work was funded by Siemens AG, and M.S. and M.G. would like to express their particular gratitude to Siemens AG for continued support. J.L. acknowledges the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 291771 for financial support.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Schreier, M., Héroguel, F., Steier, L. et al. Solar conversion of CO2 to CO using Earth-abundant electrocatalysts prepared by atomic layer modification of CuO. Nat Energy 2, 17087 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2017.87
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