Understanding the Origin of Highly Selective CO
Electroreduction to CO on Ni,N‐doped Carbon Catalysts
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Ni,N-doped carbon catalysts have shown promising catalytic performance for CO2 electroreduction (CO2 R) to CO; this activity has often been attributed to the presence of nitrogen-coordinated, single Ni atom active sites. However, experimentally confirming Ni-N bonding and correlating CO2 reduction (CO2 R) activity to these species has remained a fundamental challenge. We synthesized polyacrylonitrile-derived Ni,N-doped carbon electrocatalysts (Ni-PACN) with a range of pyrolysis temperatures and Ni loadings and correlated their electrochemical activity with extensive physiochemical characterization to rigorously address the origin of activity in these materials. We found that the CO2 R to CO partial current density increased with increased Ni content before plateauing at 2 wt % which suggests a dispersed Ni active site. These dispersed active sites were investigated by hard and soft X-ray spectroscopy, which revealed that pyrrolic nitrogen ligands selectively bind Ni atoms in a distorted square-planar geometry that strongly resembles the active sites of molecular metal-porphyrin catalysts.
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