The electroreduction of CO2, driven by renewable electricity, can be used to sustainably generate synthetic fuels. So far, only copper-based materials have been used to catalyse the formation of multicarbon products, albeit limited to C2 or C3 molecules. Herein, we disclose that inorganic nickel oxygenate-derived electrocatalysts can generate linear and branched C3 to C6 hydrocarbons with sustained Faradaic efficiencies of up to 6.5%, contrasting with metallic nickel, which is practically inactive. Operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy, electrochemical CO stripping and density functional theory pinpoint the presence of stable, polarized Niδ+ active sites associated with Ni–O bonds, which bind CO moderately. The reduction of selected C1 molecules and density functional theory simulations suggest that the Niδ+ sites promote a mechanism reminiscent of the Fischer–Tropsch synthesis: COOH + CHx coupling followed by successive CHx insertions. Our results disclose atom polarization to be the key that prevents the CO poisoning of nickel and enables CO2 reduction to a wider pool of valuable products.
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The experimental data relating to the figures and tables presented in this manuscript are available online in the Zenodo repository at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6331376. The DFT datasets generated during the current study are available in the ioChem-BD database54 at https://doi.org/10.19061/iochem-bd-1-200 (ref. 55). All other raw data are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.
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We acknowledge financial support from the National University of Singapore, Green Energy program (R143-000-A64-114 and R143-000-B52-114), ETH Zürich (research grant ETH-47 19-1) and the Swiss National Science Foundation through the National Center of Competence in Research NCCR Catalysis (grant 180544). F.D. and N.L. thank the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (RTI2018-101394-B-I00), Severo Ochoa (CEX2019-000925-S) for financial support. The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-RES) is acknowledged for providing generous computational resources. We thank J. Li of the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore for performing part of the SEM analysis.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Zhou, Y., Martín, A.J., Dattila, F. et al. Long-chain hydrocarbons by CO2 electroreduction using polarized nickel catalysts. Nat Catal 5, 545–554 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-022-00803-5