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J Phys Chem Lett. 2017 Aug 17;8(16):3933-3944. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.7b01380. Epub 2017 Aug 9.

Building Blocks for High Performance in Electrocatalytic CO2 Reduction: Materials, Optimization Strategies, and Device Engineering.

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Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich , Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 1, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


In recent years, screening of materials has yielded large gains in catalytic performance for the electroreduction of CO2. However, the diversity of approaches and a still immature mechanistic understanding make it challenging to assess the real potential of each concept. In addition, achieving high performance in CO2 (photo)electrolyzers requires not only favorable electrokinetics but also precise device engineering. In this Perspective, we analyze a broad set of literature reports to construct a set of design-performance maps that suggest patterns between performance figures and different classes of materials and optimization strategies. These maps facilitate the screening of different approaches to electrocatalyst design and the identification of promising avenues for future developments. At the device level, analysis of the network of limiting phenomena in (photo)electrochemical cells leads us to propose a straightforward performance metric based on the concepts of maximum energy efficiency and maximum product formation rate, enabling the comparison of different technologies.

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