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Copper Nanocrystal Morphology Determines the Viability of Molecular Surface Functionalization in Tuning Electrocatalytic Behavior in CO2 Reduction

Abstract

Molecular surface functionalization of metallic catalysts is emerging as an ever-developing approach to tuning their catalytic performance. Here, we report the synthesis of hybrid catalysts comprising copper nanocrystals (CuNCs) and an imidazolium ligand for the electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR). We show that this organic modifier steers the selectivity of cubic CuNCs toward liquid products. A comparison between cubic and spherical CuNCs reveals the impact of surface reconstruction on the viability of surface functionalization schemes. Indeed, the intrinsic instability of spherical CuNCs leads to ejection of the functionalized surface atoms. Finally, we also demonstrate that the more stable hybrid nanocrystal catalysts, which include cubic CuNCs, can be transferred into gas-flow CO2RR cells for testing under more industrially relevant conditions.

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