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Ionic Liquids and Green Reaction/Separation Engine

Ionic Liquid–Mediated Selective Conversion of CO2 to CO at Low Overpotentials

ABSTRACT

 
Electroreduction of carbon dioxide (CO2)—a key component of artificial photosynthesis—has largely been stymied by the impractically high overpotentials necessary to drive the process. We report an electrocatalytic system that reduces CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO) at overpotentials below 0.2 volt. The system relies on an ionic liquid electrolyte to lower the energy of the (CO2)– intermediate, most likely by complexation, and thereby lower the initial reduction barrier. The silver cathode then catalyzes formation of the final products. Formation of gaseous CO is first observed at an applied voltage of 1.5 volts, just slightly above the minimum (i.e., equilibrium) voltage of 1.33 volts. The system continued producing CO for at least 7 hours at Faradaic efficiencies greater than 96%.
Fig. 1
 
Science 4 November 2011: 
Vol. 334 no. 6056 pp. 643-644 
DOI: 10.1126/science.1209786