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CuO Nanoparticles Supported on TiO2 with High Efficiency for CO2 Electrochemical Reduction to Ethanol

Shanghai Key Laboratory of Green Chemistry and Chemical Processes, School of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Catalysts 2018, 8(4), 171;
Submission received: 7 March 2018 / Revised: 7 April 2018 / Accepted: 18 April 2018 / Published: 21 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emissions Control Catalysis)


Non-noble metal oxides consisting of CuO and TiO2 (CuO/TiO2 catalyst) for CO2 reduction were fabricated using a simple hydrothermal method. The designed catalysts of CuO could be in situ reduced to a metallic Cu-forming Cu/TiO2 catalyst, which could efficiently catalyze CO2 reduction to multi-carbon oxygenates (ethanol, acetone, and n-propanol) with a maximum overall faradaic efficiency of 47.4% at a potential of −0.85 V vs. reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE) in 0.5 M KHCO3 solution. The catalytic activity for CO2 electroreduction strongly depends on the CuO contents of the catalysts as-prepared, resulting in different electrochemistry surface areas. The significantly improved CO2 catalytic activity of CuO/TiO2 might be due to the strong CO2 adsorption ability.

Graphical Abstract

1. Introduction

Electrochemical reduction of CO2 (CO2ER) is a promising and feasible method with which to sustainably transform this waste stream into value-added low-carbon fuels [1,2,3,4,5], which has the following advantages: (1) An electrochemical system can be operated under moderate reaction conditions [5,6]; (2) The reaction process involves highly complex multiple protons and electrons transfer steps, which lead to wide product distribution, such as methanol, ethanol, acetone, and so on [7,8]; (3) The electricity could be supplied by clean and sustainable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydropower [9,10]; and (4) This reaction requires minimal chemical intake and is convenient for large-scale applications [5,8]. However, CO2ER is facing severe challenges, including poor faradaic efficiency (FE), high overpotential, and low selectivity [11,12], which urges us to design new catalysts to address the above efficiency and selectivity issues.
Over the past few decades, numerous trials have been made to explore catalysts with distinguished performance for CO2ER. Until now, multifarious catalysts including metals [5,11,12,13], metal oxides [14,15,16], and metal complexes [17,18] have been reported. Among these catalysts, Cu, as a relatively low-cost and earth abundant metal, has a unique capacity to produce hydrocarbons through a multiple protons and electrons transfer pathway; however, the traditional Cu catalysts show high overpotential [16] and low selectivity for diversiform products [5,12,19,20,21]. Substantial efforts have been pursued to enhance energetic efficiency for CO2ER through altering surface structures, morphologies, and the nature compositions. Recently, Cu-based catalysts have been reported to possess enhanced FEs for CO2ER; for instance, Takanabe et al. [22] used Cu-Sn alloy for the efficient and selective reduction of CO2 to CO over a wide potential range. Yu and her team [23] reported that Cu nanoparticle (NP) interspersed MoS2 nanoflowers facilitate CO2ER to hydrocarbon, such as CH4 and C2H4 with high FE at low overpotentials. Sun et al. [24] introduced a Core/Shell Cu/SnO2 structure that shows high selectivity to generate CO with FE reaching 93% at −0.7 V (vs. the reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE)).
Normally, TiO2, as a semiconductor material, is one of the most widely used photocatalysts and electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction because of its nontoxicity, low cost, and high chemical stability [25,26]. Furthermore, TiO2 has been reported to act as a redox electron carrier to facilitate a variety of reduction reactions, including CO2 conversion [27,28], and to assist in CO2 adsorption [29,30]; thus, it may stabilize the CO2ER intermediate and reduce overpotential. Some early works could verify this point in the CO2ER, such as Ag/TiO2 [31], Cu/TiO2 [32], and Cu/TiO2/N-graphene [33].
CuO/TiO2 has been previously prepared using different synthetic methods and is used for various applications, such as photodriven reduction of CO2 [34] and hydrogen production reaction [35]. Nevertheless, to the author’s knowledge, CuO/TiO2 as electrocatalysts for CO2ER have been rarely investigated. In previous works, we have demonstrated that CuO with various morphologies can be highly efficient electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction to ethanol in simple aqueous medium, but at high overpotential (−1.7 V vs. the saturated calomel electrode (SCE)) [36]. Inspired by previous studies, in this work, we systematically and carefully synthesized a series of nano-sized CuO/TiO2 catalysts for CO2ER. The prepared CuO/TiO2 catalysts were optimized by varying the amount of loaded CuO NPs. CuO/TiO2 with an intended CuO content of 60%, as an efficient electrocatalyst, exhibits the most outstanding activity (achieved total FE of 47.4% at the potential of −0.85 V vs. RHE) for CO2ER in 0.5 M KHCO3 solution at room temperature among all as-prepared CuO/TiO2 catalysts.

2. Results and Discussion

2.1. Catalyst Characterizations

A simple and mild hydrothermal synthesis method was used to prepare six different weight ratios of CuO/TiO2 catalysts, which are defined as CuO/TiO2-1, CuO/TiO2-2, CuO/TiO2-3, CuO/TiO2-4, CuO/TiO2-5, and CuO/TiO2-6, corresponding to the intended CuO content of 5 wt %, 10 wt %, 20 wt %, 40 wt %, 60 wt %, and 80 wt %, respectively. X-ray diffractometer (XRD) patterns shown in Figure 1 indicated that these catalysts consist of both CuO and TiO2, which were represented by solid lines and dashed lines, respectively. It can be clearly seen that all as-prepared catalysts with different amounts of CuO loadings present similar XRD patterns. The diffraction peaks ascribed to CuO were significantly shown with the increasing of CuO contents in the XRD patterns. Meanwhile, the actual CuO contents were analyzed by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) and summarized in Table S1. These values are in good agreement with the intended values.
To thoroughly examine the element proportion and chemical state of CuO/TiO2 catalysts, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst was investigated. As expected, Cu, Ti, and O elements from CuO/TiO2 catalyst were observed in the full spectrum from Figure 2a. Furthermore, Figure 2b displays the high resolution spectrum of Cu 2p, separated into Cu 2p3/2 and Cu 2p1/2 at 933.8 eV and 953.8 eV, respectively. The distance between these Cu 2p main peaks positions is 20.0 eV, which agrees well with previous reports about CuO spectrum [37]. Moreover, additional confirmation of CuO state was seen with the broad satellite peaks at a higher binding energy than the main peaks. The main peak of Cu 2p3/2 at 933.8 eV was accompanied by two satellite peaks on the higher binding energy side at about 943.8 eV and 941.5 eV, which suggests the existence of CuO [38,39,40,41]. From this figure, we can clearly see that the main peak of Cu 2p1/2 at 953.8 eV and its satellite peak at 962.5 eV were separated by about 9.0 eV, which also confirms the presence of CuO [42]. Both Ti 2p3/2 and Ti 2p1/2 peaks at 458.7 eV and 464.4 eV, respectively, were observed (Figure 2c) with a separation of 5.7 eV, indicating that TiO2 existed in this catalyst [43]. The obtained XPS spectrum of O 1 s was presented in Figure 2d. An obvious peak appeared at 529.7 eV, which can be indexed to O2- in the CuO and TiO2. Notably, there are other three weak O 1 s peaks. One located at 530.7 eV is identified with surface hydroxyls, which is likely the by-product from the synthesis process of CuO/TiO2. Additionally, the remaining two peaks observed at 531.5 eV and 532.8 eV are confirmed to C=O and C-O [44,45]. A slight peak of C 1 s was detected in Figure 2a, which is always observed in XPS spectra of real-world solids [46,47]. The high resolution spectrum of C 1 s was shown in Figure S1, consistent with the results of O 1 s.
To obtain the morphological information regarding the CuO/TiO2 catalysts, scanning electron microscope (SEM) images were firstly shown in Figure S2. One can see that the catalysts were composed of 3-dimension NPs with a certain amount of CuO nano-floc supported on the surface of TiO2. Further from the SEM images, for low CuO content of CuO/TiO2 (5 wt %, 10 wt %, and 20 wt %), CuO NPs were dotted sporadically on the surface of TiO2. Subsequently, for high CuO content of CuO/TiO2 (40 wt %, 60 wt %, and 80 wt %), it is evident that the CuO NPs completely covered on the TiO2 surface forming a massive and compact layer. Pure CuO NPs presented very porous, sponge-like structures. Moreover, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) investigation was used to gain deeper insight into the structural feature of the catalysts. TEM of CuO/TiO2-5 was shown in Figure 3a. Numerous CuO NPs were irregularly interspersed on the TiO2 surface, in accordance with the SEM results. High-resolution TEM images of CuO/TiO2-5 were displayed in Figure 3b to acquire more detailed information about the structure of the catalyst. The fast Fourier transform (FFT, inset of Figure 3b) pattern of CuO and TiO2 shows concentric rings and bright discrete diffraction spots, which are indicative of high crystallinity. From Figure 3b, distinctive lattice fringes were found in both TiO2 and CuO NPs. The lattice fringes with interplanar spacing of 0.188 nm were assigned to the (200) plane of the TiO2, expressed by orange lines (inserted in Figure 3b). Additionally, the lattice fringes with d-spacings of 0.256 nm corresponded to the plane (111) of CuO phase, represented by the yellow lines (inserted in Figure 3b).

2.2. Catalyst Properties

The electrocatalytic activity of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst was carried out in the typical three-electrode system through cyclic voltammetry (CV) measurement, which was firstly tested at a scan rate of 50 mV/s in N2-saturated and CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution, respectively, as shown in Figure 4a. In both N2 and CO2 atmosphere, two obvious reduction peaks were observed, corresponding to the in situ reduction of CuO to Cu2O and sequentially Cu2O to Cu [48]. As expected, XRD characterization could verify the formation of Cu metal from CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst after 2 h electrolysis, depicted in Figure S3. Three significant diffraction peaks for metallic Cu (denoted by solid diamond) appeared, suggesting that CuO NPs in CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst could be in situ electroreduced to metallic Cu-forming Cu/TiO2 in the electrolysis process and subsequently serves as an effective catalyst for CO2 reduction, verified by previous reports [16,36,47]. In the more negative potential region, an obvious increase of current density (J) after −0.65 V vs. RHE was shown, relating to the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) in the N2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution (pH = 8.63, black line), while more dramatic increase of J was observed in the CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution (pH = 7.21, red line). To avoid the pH effect, a CV curve was recorded in the N2-saturated solution with HCl solution (pH = 7.21, same as that of the CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution, blue line), which shows lower J than that in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution after −0.65 V vs. RHE. It demonstrates that CO2 reduction is more favorable than HER on CuO/TiO2-5.
The CO2ER electrocatalytic activity on CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst was also evaluated by controlled potential electrolysis (from −0.65 V to −1.05 V vs. RHE) in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution. The main liquid products of the electrolysis are ethanol, acetone, and n-propanol, which were detected by 1H NMR. The overall FEs (Figure 4b) presented a sharply incremental tendency at an applied potential range from −0.65 V to −0.85 V vs. RHE and achieved a maximum of 47.4% (37.5% for ethanol, 4.3% for acetone, and 5.6% for n-propanol) at the potential of −0.85 V vs. RHE. As the potentials shift more negatively, the overall FEs significantly decreased to 18.8% at the potential of −1.05 V vs. RHE because of the competition from HER. Furthermore, a similar variation trend for FEethanol, FEacetone, and FEn-propanol was observed and depicted in detail in Figure 4b. Moreover, Figure S4 shows the total current vs. time curve for the CuO/TiO2-5 electrode at −0.85 V vs. RHE, which exhibited an initial current of 85 mA as the CuO was reduced and, subsequently, a sharp decline current in a short time. Finally, a stable current of 16 mA in the long test appeared. Notably, the FE for ethanol was maintained at approximately 35% throughout the electrolysis. This finding suggests not only efficient but also stable activity for CO2 reduction on this electrode.
We also studied the effect of CuO contents in various CuO/TiO2 catalysts on CO2ER activities, as shown in Figure 5a. All CuO/TiO2 catalysts showed two obvious reduction peaks in the CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution; however, the position and size of the reduction peaks varied greatly among the catalysts, which, assigned to in situ, reduce CuO to Cu. Noteworthily, in the more negative potential region (below −0.65 V vs. RHE), all CuO/TiO2 catalysts show different catalytic abilities for CO2 reduction. The J of all CuO/TiO2 catalysts at a potential of −0.85 V vs. RHE were summarized in Table S2. CuO/TiO2-5 showed the largest J. The dramatic difference of electrocatalytic performance on various CuO/TiO2 catalysts might be closely related to the composition of these catalysts. Figure 5a shows that increasing the CuO content (from 5 wt % to 60 wt %) in the CuO/TiO2 catalysts can facilitate the reduction of CO2, leading to enhanced activity for CO2 reduction. However, on the CuO/TiO2-6 (with the intended CuO content of 80 wt %) catalyst for sequentially increasing the content of CuO, CO2 reduction was subsequently suppressed. The results clearly indicate that an optimum content of CuO in the catalysts is required to achieve the maximum activity for CO2 reduction.
Potentiostatic electrolysis (at −0.85 V vs. RHE) of CO2 on various CuO/TiO2 catalysts was performed in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution to further investigate the catalytic activities of CuO/TiO2 catalysts with different CuO contents. Figure 5b summarizes the FEs of ethanol, acetone, and n-propanol achieved over all CuO/TiO2 catalysts. As expected, the CuO/TiO2-5 with the intended CuO content of 60 wt % gives the highest total FE, which reached 47.4%, when compared with other CuO/TiO2 catalysts, which is in a well agreement with CV results as shown in Figure 5a. However, the total FEs decreased along with the higher CuO content (80 wt % and even 100 wt %) of CuO/TiO2, which is ascribed to the large number of CuO NPs that accumulated on the surface of TiO2, as shown in Figure S2f,g, which probably generated the decrease of active areas for CO2ER. Yet, low CuO content (5 wt %–40 wt %) of CuO/TiO2 also exhibited slightly poor electrocatalytic performance for CO2ER due to the low content of CuO NPs. It demonstrates further that the catalytic activity for CO2ER strongly depends on the CuO contents of the catalysts as-prepared, which results in different electrochemistry surface areas (ECSA). To confirm this finding, ECSA of a variety of CuO/TiO2 electrodes were examined by CV in a potential range in which the faradaic process did not occur with the double layer capacitance in N2 atmosphere 0.1 M HClO4 solution (Figure S5 and Table S3). As expected, CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst showed a noticeable performance improvement for the double layer capacitance (Cdl), which gives the positive correlation with ECSA. The Cdl in Table S3 indicated the ECSA increased with increasing CuO content up to 60 wt %; however, a slight decrease was observed at 80 wt %, which reconfirms the CuO content of CuO/TiO2 catalysts plays a vital role in ECSA that can affect CO2ER, which is in accordance with the results of Brunauer− Emmett−Teller (BET) specific surface area (Table S4).
To further study the improved performance of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst, we compared the electrocatalytic abilities of CO2 reduction on CuO/TiO2-5 and CuO/C catalysts. The CuO/C was successfully synthesized and characterized by XRD (Figure S6), SEM, and TEM (Figure S7). CuO/C catalyst represents the onset potential for CO2 reduction at −0.75 V vs. RHE, corresponding to a 0.10 V more negative onset potential than CuO/TiO2-5, as shown in Figure S8. This finding suggests that TiO2 as the supporter is more beneficial to facilitating CO2ER. The J in CO2-saturated solution of CuO/TiO2-5 at the potential of −0.85 V vs. RHE was 8.307 mA/cm2, which is larger than that of CuO/C (1.402 mA/cm2). Additionally, potentiostatic electrolysis in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution for the CuO/C was performed at the potential of −0.85 V vs. RHE, which shows poor active towards CO2 reduction. Only 16.3% for overall FE (12.9% for ethanol, 1.1% for acetone, and 2.3% for n-propanol) was analyzed by 1H NMR. In contrast, CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst presents excellent activity for CO2 reduction, which achieved 47.4% for overall FE. Besides, as seen from Figure S5 and Table S3, the ECSA of CuO/TiO2-5 reveals a larger value than the one of CuO/C. As is well known, CO2 adsorption on the active sites is the prerequisite for subsequent CO2 reduction reaction. The relatively larger amount of CO2 adsorption on active sites may offer more original reactants such as CO2 [49]. The CO2 adsorption abilities of CuO/TiO2-5 and CuO/C were evaluated by CO2 adsorption, which were displayed in Figure S9. CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst possessed a more remarkably improved CO2 adsorption capacity than CuO/C, which was 5.80 mg/g and 1.34 mg/g, respectively. It is reasonable to assume that the enhanced CO2 adsorption capacity can make a significant contribution to the superior performance of CO2 reduction. By comparing the electrochemical and material characterizations of CuO/TiO2 with those of CuO/C, we gained insight that TiO2 plays an important role in promoting the electrocatalytic performance of CuO/TiO2. Hence, on the basis of the above analysis, a brief illustration of CO2ER over CuO/TiO2 catalysts is stated. Large amount of CO2 is first adsorbed on TiO2. CuO/TiO2 catalysts could be in situ electroreduced to Cu/TiO2 at less negative cathode potentials than the ones of CO2ER. Then, the adsorbed CO2 gets one electron from the achieved Cu/TiO2 electrode and is converted to CO2, which can be dimerized to *C2O2. Notably, the C-C bond-making step on the Cu surface is a key step for CO2 reduction to ethanol and even the C3 product (acetone and n-propanol) [50]. Interestingly, the catalytic ability of CuO/TiO2-5 at −0.85 V vs. RHE expresses more obvious performance than the one of 40 wt % Cu/TiO2 (the optimal catalyst in X wt % Cu/TiO2 system) at −1.45 V vs. RHE [34], which indicates that in situ electroreduced Cu NPs have greater activity to catalyze CO2 reduction. The low-cost CuO/TiO2 catalyst is an efficient alternative to expensive materials for the application of CO2ER in industry.

3. Materials and Methods

3.1. Materials and Instruments

Cupric acetate monohydrate [Cu(Ac)2·H2O, Analytical Reagent (AR) grade], ammonium carbonate [(NH4)2CO3, AR grade], potassium bicarbonate [KHCO3, AR grade], and titanium dioxide [TiO2, AR grade] were purchased from Sinopharm Chemical Reagent Co. (SCR, Shanghai, China) with 99% purity and used as received. Nafion® 117 solution (5%) and Nafion® 117 membrane were obtained from Dupont (Wilmington, DE, USA). Carbon paper (CP, HCP010) and conductive carbon black (C, VXC72R) were purchased from Shanghai Hesen Electrical CO. (Shanghai, China).
Crystal-phase X-ray diffraction (XRD) patterns of CuO/TiO2 catalysts were recorded using an Ultima IV X-ray powder diffractometer (Kurary, Tokyo, Japan) equipped with Cu Kα radiation (k = 1.5406 Å). The values for actual CuO loadings of the synthesized catalysts were determined on an inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES, IRIS Intrepid II XPS, Waltham, MA, USA). The scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of the catalysts were obtained using a Hitachi S-4800 field-emission scanning electron microscope (Tokyo, Japan). Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) patterns were recorded by TECNAI G2F30 transmission electron microscope (Tokyo, Japan). The X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA, USA) analysis was performed on the Thermo Scientific ESCA Lab 250Xi using 200 W monochromatic Al Kα radiation. The 500 μm X-ray spot was used. The base pressure in the analysis chamber was about 3 × 10−10 mbar. Typically, the hydrocarbon C1s line at 284.8 eV from adventitious carbon was used for energy referencing. Brunauer−Emmett−Teller (BET) specific surface area was characterized by nitrogen adsorption in a BELSORP-MAX instrument (MicrotracBEL, Tokyo, Japan) after outgassing the samples for 10 h under vacuum at 573 K. CO2 adsorption was obtained in a BELSORP-MAX instrument (MicrotracBEL, Japan) under CO2 atmosphere at 298 K. Potentiostatic electrolysis and cyclic voltammetry (CV) were performed using a CHI 660 C electrochemical station (Shanghai Chenhua Instrument Co. Ltd., Shanghai, China).

3.2. Materials Synthesis

A simple and mild hydrothermal synthesis method was used to prepare six different weight ratios of CuO/TiO2 catalysts, which are defined as CuO/TiO2-1, CuO/TiO2-2, CuO/TiO2-3, CuO/TiO2-4, CuO/TiO2-5, and CuO/TiO2-6, corresponding to the CuO content of 5 wt %, 10 wt %, 20 wt %, 40 wt %, 60 wt %, and 80 wt %, respectively. Typically, due to similar fabrication procedure, for simplicity, CuO/TiO2-5 acts as the specimen to illustrate the following experiment. The detailed synthesis procedure for CuO/TiO2-5 is depicted as follows: 0.05 M of Cu(Ac)2 aqueous solution (60 mL) was mixed with 127 mg of TiO2. After stirring for several minutes, an appropriate amount of 0.05 M of (NH4)2CO3 aqueous solution was added drop-wise with stirring to control the synthetic rate. Then, the mixture was stirred gently for 3 h at the ambient temperature. Subsequently, the above mixture was centrifuged, washed with distilled water, and stored in a vacuum oven with 60 °C for 4 h to dry the precipitate. Finally, the collected powder was transferred to a crucible, further maintaining at 220 °C for 3 h to obtain the final CuO/TiO2 powder. Pure CuO catalyst was acquired by the same method, without adding TiO2. Additionally, CuO/C catalyst with the CuO content of 60 wt % got through the similar synthetic process, but with C replacing TiO2.

3.3. Electrode Preparation and Electrochemical Test

Potentiostatic electrolysis was carried out in an H-type three-electrode cell with a piece of Nafion® 117 cation exchange membrane (H+ form) as a separator. The working electrode was manufactured using the following route: 10 mg of CuO/TiO2 catalyst was suspended in a mixture solution with 20 μL of 5 wt % Nafion® solution and 40 μL of distilled water. After sonification for 20 min, the mixture was spread on a porous CP (2 × 2 cm) by micropipette and then dried in air. The counter and reference electrodes were Pt sheet and SCE, respectively. A 0.5 M of KHCO3 aqueous solution serves as electrolyte, which was saturated with CO2 by bubbling for 30 min before the electrolysis experiment. CO2 was bubbled continuously throughout overall experiment time. CV tests were measured in a single cell system using a standard three-electrode setup at 0.5 M KHCO3 aqueous solution under CO2 and N2 atmosphere with a scan rate of 50 mV/s, respectively. In this system, 2 μL of the above prepared catalyst suspension was coated on glassy carbon electrode (GCE, diameter = 2 mm) playing as the working electrode, and a Pt mesh and an SCE acted as the counter electrode and the reference electrode, respectively. All potentials were based on RHE as reference potentials, and converted by the following equation:
E (vs. RHE) = E (vs. SCE) + 0.059 × pH + 0.241.

3.4. Product Analysis

Liquid phase products were analyzed by 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra recorded on an Ascend 400 (400 MHz, Bruker, Germany) spectrometer in D2O with Me4Si as an internal standard.

4. Conclusions

In this study, a simple synthesis strategy was employed to fabricate CuO/TiO2 material. A series of characterizations has demonstrated that CuO NPs were uniformly distributed on the surface of TiO2. Different CuO/TiO2 catalysts displayed dramatically different electrocatalytic performance for CO2ER, depending strongly on the CuO contents of the catalysts as-prepared. High FEs of CO2 reduction products (ethanol, acetone, and n-propanol) reach up to 47.4% on CuO/TiO2-5 at the potential of −0.85 V vs. RHE among all CuO/TiO2 and CuO/C catalysts. The CO2 adsorption ability test suggests that CuO/TiO2-5 exhibits more superior CO2 adsorption performance than CuO/C, indicating that CuO/TiO2-5 is more beneficial to CO2 reduction. The fact that the as-synthesized CuO/TiO2 catalysts exhibit high activity for CO2ER is attributed to the special roles of TiO2 that show excellent CO2 adsorption ability. Our work may provide some concepts for designing cheap and effective catalysts for highly efficient CO2ER.

Supplementary Materials

The following are available online at, Table S1: CuO composition of the synthesized CuO/TiO2 catalysts. Figure S1: The high-resolution XPS spectrum of C1s for CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst. Figure S2: SEM images of (a) pure TiO2, (b) CuO/TiO2-1, (c) CuO/TiO2-2, (d) CuO/TiO2-3, (e) CuO/TiO2-4, (f) CuO/TiO2-5, (g) CuO/TiO2-6, and (h) pure CuO. Figure S3: XRD patterns of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst after 2 h electrolysis. The solid diamond represents the in situ generated Cu metal. Figure S4: CO2 reduction electrolysis data at −0.85 V vs. RHE for CuO-TiO2-5 catalyst. Table S2: The current density (J) for all the CuO/TiO2 catalysts in CO2-saturated environment at the potential of −0.85 V vs. RHE. Figure S5: Plot of I vs. potential of (A) CuO/TiO2-1, (B) CuO/TiO2-2, (C) CuO/TiO2-3, (D) CuO/TiO2-4, (E) CuO/TiO2-5, (F) CuO/TiO2-6, (G) pure CuO, and (H) CuO/C in N2-saturated 0.1 M HClO4 solution cycled between 0.35 and 0.55 V vs. SCE at scan rates in the range of 5–60 mV/s. Insets show plot of Ic vs. ν in which the linear regressions give capacitance information. Table S3: The analysis of Cdl of various CuO/TiO2 and CuO/C catalysts. Table S4: The analysis of specific surface area of CuO/TiO2 catalysts. Figure S6: XRD patterns of CuO/C and C catalysts. Figure S7: SEM (a) and TEM (b) images of CuO/C catalyst. Figure S8: CV curve of CuO/C catalyst over glassy carbon electrode in CO2-saturated (red line) 0.5 M KHCO3 solution. Figure S9: CO2 adsorption-desorption isotherms at 297 K of CuO/TiO2-5 (red square) and CuO/C (blue triangle). Filled and empty symbols represent adsorption and desorption, respectively.


We gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21673078, 21473060, 21773071).

Author Contributions

Jing Yuan and Jing-Jie Zhang conceived and designed the experiments; Jing Yuan and Wang-Jun Meng performed the experiments; Jing Yuan, Man-Ping Yang, and Huan Wang analyzed the data; Jing Yuan, Huan Wang, and Jia-Xing Lu wrote the paper.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. XRD patterns of (a) pure TiO2, (b) CuO/TiO2-1, (c) CuO/TiO2-2, (d) CuO/TiO2-3, (e) CuO/TiO2-4, (f) CuO/TiO2-5, (g) CuO/TiO2-6, and (h) pure CuO.
Figure 1. XRD patterns of (a) pure TiO2, (b) CuO/TiO2-1, (c) CuO/TiO2-2, (d) CuO/TiO2-3, (e) CuO/TiO2-4, (f) CuO/TiO2-5, (g) CuO/TiO2-6, and (h) pure CuO.
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Figure 2. (a) The full XPS spectrum of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst and high-resolution XPS spectra of (b) Cu 2p; (c) Ti 2p and (d) O 1 s.
Figure 2. (a) The full XPS spectrum of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst and high-resolution XPS spectra of (b) Cu 2p; (c) Ti 2p and (d) O 1 s.
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Figure 3. TEM images of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst in (a) low magnification and (b) high magnification (the insets are FFT pattern and the detailed images of white dashed circle).
Figure 3. TEM images of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst in (a) low magnification and (b) high magnification (the insets are FFT pattern and the detailed images of white dashed circle).
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Figure 4. (a) CV curves of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst over glassy carbon electrode (GCE) in N2-saturated without (black line) and with (blue line) HCl solution, and CO2-saturated (red line) 0.5 M KHCO3 solution; (b) FEs for different products over CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst at various potentials.
Figure 4. (a) CV curves of CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst over glassy carbon electrode (GCE) in N2-saturated without (black line) and with (blue line) HCl solution, and CO2-saturated (red line) 0.5 M KHCO3 solution; (b) FEs for different products over CuO/TiO2-5 catalyst at various potentials.
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Figure 5. (a) CV curves of various CuO/TiO2 catalysts over GCE in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution. Scan rate, 50 mV/s; (b) FEs for different products over various CuO/TiO2 catalysts at −0.85 V vs. RHE in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 aqueous solution.
Figure 5. (a) CV curves of various CuO/TiO2 catalysts over GCE in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 solution. Scan rate, 50 mV/s; (b) FEs for different products over various CuO/TiO2 catalysts at −0.85 V vs. RHE in CO2-saturated 0.5 M KHCO3 aqueous solution.
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Yuan, J.; Zhang, J.-J.; Yang, M.-P.; Meng, W.-J.; Wang, H.; Lu, J.-X. CuO Nanoparticles Supported on TiO2 with High Efficiency for CO2 Electrochemical Reduction to Ethanol. Catalysts 2018, 8, 171.

AMA Style

Yuan J, Zhang J-J, Yang M-P, Meng W-J, Wang H, Lu J-X. CuO Nanoparticles Supported on TiO2 with High Efficiency for CO2 Electrochemical Reduction to Ethanol. Catalysts. 2018; 8(4):171.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Yuan, Jing, Jing-Jie Zhang, Man-Ping Yang, Wang-Jun Meng, Huan Wang, and Jia-Xing Lu. 2018. "CuO Nanoparticles Supported on TiO2 with High Efficiency for CO2 Electrochemical Reduction to Ethanol" Catalysts 8, no. 4: 171.

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