Imidazolium cations enhance the performance of several electrodes in converting CO2 to CO in non-aqueous media. In this publication, we elucidate the origin of the function of imidazolium cations when exposed to Au electrodes in anhydrous acetonitrile in CO2 atmosphere. We demonstrate that imidazolium cations lead to unprecedentedly low overpotentials for CO2 reduction to CO on Au, with ∼100% Faradaic efficiency. By modification of the N1 and N3 functionality of the imidazolium cation, we show a direct correlation between the performance in CO2 reduction and the C2-H acidity of the cation. Based on NMR analyses, DFT calculations, and isotopic labeling, showing an inverse kinetic isotope effect, we demonstrate that the mechanism involves a concerted proton-electron transfer to the electrode-adsorbed CO2 intermediate. The demonstrated mechanism provides guidelines for improvement in the energy efficiency of non-aqueous electrochemical CO2 reduction, by a tailored design of electrolyte cations.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||ACS Energy Letters|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Oct 2022|