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Volume 1 Issue 2, February 2018

Linking outside the box

The conversion of carbon dioxide into multi-carbon products is needed to produce liquid fuels and more complex chemicals, though achieving selectivity over single-carbon products can be challenging. Here, Jiang et al. predict that Cu(100) facets are favourable for electrocatalytic C–C coupling, and demonstrate this by preparing copper nanocubes rich in these facets that prove to be selective for C2+ products in water.

See Jiang et al.

Image: Demin Liu (MolGraphics), Kun Jiang (Harvard University) and Haotian Wang (Harvard University). Cover Design: Karen Moore.


  • Converting carbon dioxide to more useful — and less harmful — chemicals is a key challenge of our time, and one in which catalysis needs to play a key role.



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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Given the abundance of amines in pharmaceutical substances, new strategies for the formation of C–N bonds are highly sought after. Now, using a dual photoredox–copper catalysis system, a method for amine synthesis has been developed.

    • Joyann S. Barber
    • Francesca M. Ippoliti
    • Neil K. Garg
    News & Views
  • Selective, electrochemical transformation of carbon dioxide into industrially relevant C2+ products has remained a challenge. Now, a copper-based ‘nanoneedle’ electrocatalyst has been used to selectively convert carbon dioxide to ethylene at extremely high current density.

    • Douglas R. Kauffman
    • Dominic Alfonso
    News & Views
  • Understanding the fundamentals of a catalytic process remains an intellectual challenge. Now, a method has been developed that can discriminate mass transport phenomena from reaction kinetics at the single-molecule and single-particle levels.

    • Bert M. Weckhuysen
    News & Views
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  • Catalysts that can selectively reduce carbon dioxide to C2+ products are attractive for the generation of more complex and useful chemicals. Here, an electro-redeposited copper catalyst is shown to provide excellent selectivity and high current density for ethylene formation. Detailed characterization and theory link the performance to the catalyst morphology.

    • Phil De Luna
    • Rafael Quintero-Bermudez
    • Edward H. Sargent
  • Electrocatalytic reduction of CO2 to products containing multiple carbon atoms is useful for producing high-value chemicals and fuels. This work uses theory to predict the preferred copper surface for C–C coupling, and subsequent metal ion cycling to produce the desired facets results in a catalyst that is highly selective for C2+ products.

    • Kun Jiang
    • Robert B. Sandberg
    • Haotian Wang
  • Understanding structure sensitivity—how the structural morphology of a surface influences a catalytic reaction—is important for rational catalyst design. Here, the synthesis and in-depth characterization of a range of size-defined nickel clusters shows the structure sensitivity of CO2 hydrogenation, and also identifies two size-dependent reaction pathways.

    • Charlotte Vogt
    • Esther Groeneveld
    • Bert M. Weckhuysen
  • Zeolite-catalysed alkylations of phenolic compounds offer unique possibilities for the valorization of renewable aromatics into substituted arenes. Now, a mechanistic study reveals that the course of the reaction can be dramatically altered by changing the polarity of the solvent, which affects the nature of surface species and the pathway for the generation of the alkylating electrophile.

    • Yuanshuai Liu
    • Eszter Baráth
    • Johannes A. Lercher
  • Bifunctional heterogeneous catalysts are usually prepared by dispersion of a metal on an acidic or basic support. Now a method has been developed to post-functionalize a catalyst and introduce tunable acidity by coating an organic acid layer on the support, resulting in improved performance as showcased for selected hydrodeoxygenation reactions.

    • Jing Zhang
    • Lucas D. Ellis
    • J. Will Medlin
  • The direct synthesis of hydrogen peroxide via oxygen reduction is an attractive alternative to the anthraquinone process. Here, a general trend linking oxygenation of carbon surfaces with electrocatalytic performance in peroxide synthesis is demonstrated, and computational studies provide further insight into the nature of the active sites.

    • Zhiyi Lu
    • Guangxu Chen
    • Yi Cui
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Amendments & Corrections

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