The electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide is a promising approach for storing (excess) renewable electricity as chemicalenergy in fuels. Here, I will discuss recent advances and challenges in the understanding of electrochemical CO2 reduction. I will summarize existing models for the initial activation of CO2 on the electrocatalyst and their importance for understanding selectivity. Carbon–carbon bond formation is also a key mechanistic step in CO2 electroreduction to high-density and high-value fuels. I will show that both the initial CO2 activation and C–C bond formation are influenced by an intricate interplay between surface structure (both on the nano- and on the mesoscale), electrolyte effects (pH, buffer strength, ion effects) and mass transport conditions. This complex interplay is currently still far from being completely understood.
Marc Koper is Professor of Surface Chemistry and Catalysis at Leiden University, The Netherlands. He received his PhD degree (1994) from Utrecht University (The Netherlands) with a thesis on nonlinear dynamics and oscillations in electrochemistry. He was an EU Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ulm (Germany) and a Fellow of Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) at Eindhoven University of Technology, before moving to Leiden University in 2005. His research in Leiden focuses on fundamental aspects of electrocatalysis, theoretical and computational electrochemistry, and electrochemical surface science, in relation to renewable energy and chemistry. He has received various national and international awards, among which the Spinoza Prize of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (2021), Allen J. Bard for Electrochemical Science of The Electrochemical Society (2020), the Netherlands Catalysis and Chemistry Award (2019), and the Faraday Medal (2017) from the Royal Society of Chemistry.