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Journal Article

Self-activation of copper electrodes during CO electro-oxidation in alkaline electrolyte


Reuter,  Karsten
Chair of Theoretical Chemistry and Catalysis Research Center, Technische Universität München;
Theory, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;

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Auer, A., Andersen, M., Werning, E.-M., Hörmann, N. G., Buller, N., Reuter, K., et al. (2020). Self-activation of copper electrodes during CO electro-oxidation in alkaline electrolyte. Nature Catalysis, 3(10), 797-803. doi:10.1038/s41929-020-00505-w.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-FF41-2
The development of low-temperature fuel cells for clean energy production is an appealing alternative to fossil-fuel technologies. CO is a key intermediate in the electro-oxidation of energy carrying fuels and, due to its strong interaction with state-of-the-art Pt electrodes, it is known to act as a poison. Here we demonstrate the ability of Earth-abundant Cu to electro-oxidize CO effi-ciently in alkaline media, reaching high current densities of ≥0.35 mA cm−2 on single-crystal Cu(111) model catalysts. Strong and continuous surface structural changes are observed under reaction conditions. Supported by first-principles microkinetic modelling, we show that the concomitant presence of high-energy undercoordinated Cu structures at the surface is a prereq-uisite for the high activity. Similar CO-induced self-activation has been reported for gas–surface reactions at coinage metals, demonstrating the strong parallels between heterogeneous thermal catalysis and heterogeneous electrocatalysis.