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Title:
ELECTROREDUCTION OF CARBON DIOXIDE ON TRANSITION METAL OXIDE CATALYSTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/197527
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Provided is a method for the electrolytic reduction of CO2 that comprises providing an electrolytic cell comprising at least one reaction chamber comprising at least one anode and at least one cathode; placing at least one electrolyte solution between at least one anode and at least one cathode, wherein the at least one cathode comprises at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide; providing CO2 in the electrolyte solution; and applying electrical potential to the electrolytic cell, so that CO2 undergoes at least one reduction reaction at the cathode to provide at least one product selected from the group consisting of methanol, methane, methanediol and formic acid. Also provided is an electrochemical device for electrochemical reduction of CO2 that has at least one cathode comprising a transition metal oxide.

Inventors:
SKULASON EGILL (IS)
Application Number:
EP2019/059238
Publication Date:
October 17, 2019
Filing Date:
April 11, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HASKOLI ISLANDS (IS)
International Classes:
C25B11/04; C25B3/04
Domestic Patent References:
WO2017125469A12017-07-27
Foreign References:
US20170037522A12017-02-09
JPH07188961A1995-07-25
US20160076158A12016-03-17
JP2010163678A2010-07-29
US20060235088A12006-10-19
Other References:
MOHAMMADREZA KARAMAD ET AL: "Mechanistic Pathway in the Electrochemical Reduction of CO 2 on RuO 2", ACS CATALYSIS, vol. 5, no. 7, 8 June 2015 (2015-06-08), US, pages 4075 - 4081, XP055601309, ISSN: 2155-5435, DOI: 10.1021/cs501542n
ARGHYA BHOWMIK ET AL: "Descriptors and Thermodynamic Limitations of Electrocatalytic Carbon Dioxide Reduction on Rutile Oxide Surfaces", CHEMSUSCHEM, WILEY-VCH, vol. 9, no. 22, 23 November 2016 (2016-11-23), pages 3230 - 3243, XP009514185, ISSN: 1864-5631, DOI: 10.1002/CSSC.201600845
WHIPPLE ET AL., J PHYS CHEM, vol. 1, 2010, pages 3451 - 3458
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BLOCHL, PHYS REV B, vol. 50, 1994, pages 17953 - 79
KARAMAD ET AL., ACS CATAL, vol. 5, 2015, pages 4074 - 81
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KARAMAD ET AL.: "Ru0", ACS CATAL, vol. 5, 2015, pages 4075 - 81
BHOWMIK ET AL., CHEMSUSCHEM, vol. 9, 2016, pages 3230 - 43
BHOMWIK ET AL., CHEMSUSCHEM, vol. 9, 2016, pages 3230 - 43
KARAMAD ET AL., ACS CATAL, vol. 5, 2015, pages 4075 - 81
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ARNASON FAKTOR (IS)
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Claims:
Claims

1 . A method for the electrolytic reduction of CO2, the method comprising: providing an electrolytic cell comprising at least one reaction chamber comprising at least one anode and at least one cathode, wherein the at least one cathode comprises at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide selected from the group consisting of HfC>2, OsC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, NbC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2, ReC>2, ZrC>2, VO2 and M0O2; placing at least one electrolyte solution between the at least one anode and the at least one cathode, so that the at least one anode and the at least one cathode come into contact with the electrolyte solution; providing CO2 in the electrolyte solution; and applying electrical potential to the electrolytic cell; whereby CO2 undergoes at least one reduction reaction at the cathode to provide at least one product selected from the group consisting of methanol, methane, methanediol and formic acid.

2. The method of claim 1 , wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, M0O2 and PdC>2, more preferably from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, M0O2 and MnC>2.

3. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the catalyst surface is provided as a pure transition metal oxide.

4. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the catalyst surface comprises two or more transition metal oxides.

5. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the method is carried out at a temperature in the range of about 0°C to about 50°C, preferably about 10°C to about 40°C, more preferably about 20°C to about 30°C, even more preferably about 20°C to about 25°C.

6. The method of any one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the method is carried out at ambient pressure.

7. The method of any one of the preceding claims 1 - 5, characterized in that the method is carried out at a pressure in the range of about 1 atmospere to about 30 atmospheres, preferably about 5 atmospheres to about 20 atmospheres, more preferably about 10 atmospheres to about 20 atmospheres.

8. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the catalyst surface comprises at least one surface having a rutile structure.

9. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the catalyst surface comprises at least one surface having a (1 10) facet.

10. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein an electrode potential that is less than about -0.5 V using a reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE) as a reference, is applied to the electrolytic cell.

1 1. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein less than 50% moles hh are formed compared to moles CO2 that are reduced.

12. The method of the preceding claim, wherein an electrode potential that is in the range of about -0.4 V to about -0.1 V is applied to the electrolytic cell, preferably an electrode potential that is in the range of about -0.3 V to about -0.1 V.

13. An electrochemical device for the reduction of carbon dioxide to at least one reaction product selected from the group consisting of methanol, methanediol, methane and formic acid, the device comprising at least one electrochemical cell that comprises an anode and a cathode, wherein the cathode comprises at least one cathode electrode having at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide selected from the group consisting of HfC>2, OsC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, NbC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2, ReC>2, ZrC>2, VO2 and M0O2.

14. The electrochemical device of claim 13, wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, M0O2 and PdC>2, more preferably selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, M0O2 and MnC>2.

15. The electrochemical device of claim 13 or claim 14, wherein the catalyst surface comprises at least one surface having a rutile structure, wherein the surface preferably comprises at least one surface having a (1 10) facet.

16. A process for the catalytic reduction of carbon dioxide, comprising: introducing CO2 to a solution comprising at least one electrolyte in an electrolytic cell so that the CO2 comes into contact with at least one cathode electrode surface; and applying a potential to said electrolytic cell, whereby CO2 reacts with protons to form at least one product selected from methanol, methane, methanediol and formic acid; wherein the cathode electrode surface comprises at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide selected from the group consisting of HfC>2, OsC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, NbC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2, ReC>2, ZrC>2, VO2 and M0O2.

17. The process of claim 16, wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, M0O2 and PdC>2, preferably selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, M0O2 and MnC>2.

18. The process of claim 16 or claim 17, wherein the process is carried out at a pressure in the range of about 1 to 20 atmospheres and a temperature in the range of about 0°C to about 50°C, preferably about 10°C to about 40°C, more preferably about 20°C to about 30°C, even more preferably about 20°C to about 25°C.

19. The process of any one of the claims 16 to 18, wherein the catalyst surface comrises at least one surface having a rutile structure, preferably wherein the rutile structure has a (110) facet.

Description:
ELECTROREDUCTION OF CARBON DIOXIDE ON TRANSITION METAL OXIDE CATALYSTS

Field

The invention is within the field of process chemistry, and specifically relating to the reduction of carbon dioxide with electrolytic methods, and new transition metal oxide catalysts therefor.

Introduction

Converting fossil resources into fuels and chemicals is an essential process in modern life. Presently more than 80% of global energy needs are met from fossil fuels and their daily- increasing use has dire consequences on global energy requirements. Over the past few decades, balance in nature has been lost because of the dramatic increase in CO2 emission, mainly from the burning of carbonaceous fuels, resulting in global warming. In order to lower the CO2 content of the atmosphere much effort on many levels have been made. One of the most important measures in this regard is to lower CO2 emission in the first place and to convert it back to fuel or other chemicals. To pursue this goal, a novel catalyst that operates at ambient conditions and electrochemically reduces CO2 to high-value-added products is the key technology (Whipple et al., J Phys Chem (2010) 1 , 3451 -3458). This catalyst could be used in a decentralized device powered by renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind, or geothermal power) consuming CO2 as a reactant and directly converting it to fuel (Barton Cole et al., J Am Chem Soc (2010) 132, 1 1539-51 ). There are, however, a number of challenges that need to be overcome in order to develop such catalyst that is active, energy efficient and selective towards a particular product such as formic acid, methane or methanol (Ebbesen et al., J Power Sources (2009) 193, 349-58; Fu et al., Energy Environ Sci (2010) 3, 1382).

From many experimental works on the electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) conducted on different metal catalysts, Cu has been confirmed to be the best pure metal catalyst for producing hydrocarbons with reasonable current efficiency, whereas other metal electrodes mainly form formate, CO or H2 gas (Hori, Mod Asp Electrochem (2008) 42, 89-189; Kuhl et al., J Am Chem Soc (2014) 136, 14107-13). Cu is, however, not efficient enough for commercial applications since it requires a large overpotential. It also produces 15 different carbon-containing products as well as H2 gas and the separation of this wide range of products is a costly process. At around -1 V, Cu electrode produces methane (40%), methanol (0.1 %), ethylene (25%), ethanol (10%) and propanol (4%). This shows that the Cu electrode is more efficient towards producing hydrocarbons than alcohols, and only insignificant amount of methanol is produced, which would be the most attractive product as transportation fuel.

A number of theoretical studies have been carried out over the last few years to model the CO2RR using density functional theory (DFT) calculations. This is a quantum mechanical methodology that accounts for the interactions between electrons and nuclei; the input is the atomic structure of the system of interest, and the output the ground state energy of the system. Insight into the mechanism or the reaction pathway for reducing CO2 to CH4 on the stepped Cu(21 1 ) surface was first proposed by Peterson et al (Energy Environ Sci (2010) 3, 131 1 ). There, the most important aspects of the overall system were calculated explicitly, or the free energy of adsorbed intermediates on the catalyst surface, also referred to as the thermochemical model (TCM). The TCM approach has been successfully applied on a number of electrochemical systems; including the water oxidation reaction on transition metal oxides (TMOs), the N2 electroreduction reaction on the surfaces of transition metals, transition metal nitrides, as well as transition metal oxides, hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) on transition metal nitrides and CO2RR on transition metals and TMOs. The effect of the applied potential can be included implicitly using the computational hydrogen electrode (CHE; Norskov et al. J Phys Chem B (2004) 108, 17886-92). However, other parts of the electrochemical environment (solvent effects, pH dependency, etc.) are usually not taken explicitly into account. Energy barriers of proton-electron transfer reactions are not included in the TCM approach but other studies have modeled that with various approaches. Those studies have improved the reaction mechanism and it has been concluded that energy barriers are needed to capture the trends in product distribution seen in the experiments on the pure metals. However, it has been concluded that the TCM-CHE approach is sufficient in obtaining a good estimate of the overpotential needed, both towards various products on Cu and towards methane on various metal electrodes.

Recently, it has been observed that the product distribution is different when TMOs are used as catalysts for CO2RR than when the pure metal electrodes are used. Experimental works have shown that some particular TMOs, especially RUO2, and RUO2 in combination with other transition metal oxides such as Ir0 2 , are active for CO2RR and more selective towards methanol formation than any of the pure metals tested so far. Current efficiency towards methanol formation has been measured to be between 2-76% depending on the catalyst composition/structure and reaction conditions such as electrolyte type, pH and applied potential (Bandi, J Electrochem Soc (1990), 137, 2157; Bandi & Kijhne, J Electrochem Soc (1992), 139, 16045; Popic et al, (1997) 421 , 105-10; Spataru et al, J Appl Electrochem (2003) 1205-10; Qu et al, Electrochim Acta (2005) 50, 3576-80). However, a mixture of other carbon- containing compounds is also formed, such as formic acid and methane, as well as hydrogen gas.

Karamad et at. (ACS Catal (2015) 5, 4075-81 ) used DFT calculations to get insight into the mechanism and reaction pathway for CO2RR on RuC>2 using the TCM-CHE approach. Following that study, Bhowmik et al. (Chem Sus Chem (2016) 9, 3230-43) used the same methodology to study the effect of different TMO overlayers on the RuC>2 (1 10) surface. In both of these studies on the TMO surfaces, it is concluded that reaction intermediates of the carbon- containing species bind through the oxygen atom(s). This is in contrast to the intermediates on the metal surfaces where it is concluded that most intermediates bind through the carbon atom. This might be a justifying reason why metal oxide catalysts are more selective towards methanol, while pure metals are more selective towards methane and ethylene since there the oxygen atoms are reduced to water molecules. Therefore, metal oxides might open up new avenues for efficient liquid fuel production from CO2.

Summary

It has proven challenging to find good electrocatalysts for the reduction of CO2. The present invention is based on the discovery that certain transition metal oxides are useful catalysts for CO2 reduction.

The present inventors have found that certain transition metal oxide catalysts may be employed in the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide. This has lead to the present invention, that makes possible to produce high-value products from carbon dioxide under various conditions, including at ambient room temperature and atmospheric pressure.

In a first aspect, the invention provides a method for the electrolytic reduction of CO2, the method comprising steps of: (i) providing an electrolytic cell comprising at least one reaction chamber that comprises at least one anode and at least one cathode, wherein the at least one cathode comprises at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide; (2) placing at least one electrolyte solution between the at least one anode and the at least one cathode, so that the at least one anode and the at least cathode come into contact with the electrolyte solution; (iii) providing CO2 in the electrolyte solution; and (iv) applying electrical potential to the electrolytic cell; whereby CO2 undergoes at least one reduction reaction at the cathode to provide at least one product selected from the group consisting of methanol, methane, methanediol and formic acid. In an embodiment, the transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of T1O 2 , HfC>2, OsC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, NbC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2, Pt02, Re02, Zr02, VO2 and M0O2.

The application of an electric potential that can preferably be a low applied potential such as a potential of less than -1.0 V, preferably less than -0.9 V, preferably less than -0.8 V, preferably less than -0.7 V, more preferably less than -0.6 V, more preferably at a potential of less than -0.5 V. As will be appreciated, the applied potential can also be varied depending on the transition metal oxide being used in the catalyst, and the desired product(s), so as obtain desired reaction products for any given catalyst surface.

Further, the cell can be operated at ambient conditions of temperature and pressure to produce the desired products, using protons provided by the electrolyte solution in the cell. Another aspect of the invention thus relates to process for the catalytic reduction of carbon dioxide, comprising steps of (i) introducing CO 2 to a solution comprising at least one electrolyte in an electrolytic cell so that the CO 2 comes into contact with at least one cathode electrode surface; and (ii) applying a potential to said electrolytic cell, whereby CO 2 reacts with protons to form at least one product selected from methanol, methane, methanediol and formic acid; wherein the cathode electrode surface comprises at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide. The invention also provides a device for the reduction of CO 2 . An aspect of the invention thus relates to an electrochemical device for the reduction of carbon dioxide to at least one reaction product, the device comprising at least one electrochemical cell that comprises an anode and a cathode, wherein the cathode comprises at least one cathode electrode having at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide.

In the method, process and device according to the invention, the at least one transition metal oxide can be selected from the group consisting of HfC>2, lrC>2, T1O2, OsC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, NbC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2, Pt0 2 , ReC>2, ZrC>2, VO2 and M0O2. In certain embodiments, the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of T1O2, RI7O2, CrC>2, M0O2, MnC>2, PdC> 2 and PtC> 2 . In yet other embodiments, the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, M0O2, PdC>2 and PtC>2. The at least one transition metal oxide can also be selected from the group consisting of RhC> 2 , CrC> 2 , MnC> 2 , M0O2 and PdC>2 or RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, and PdC>2. In yet other embodiments, the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of RhC> 2 , CrC> 2 , MoC> 2 and MnC> 2 or RhC> 2 , CrC> 2 , and MnC> 2 In one embodiment, the at least one transition metal oxide is RhC> 2 . In one embodiment, the at least one transition metal oxide is CrC> 2 . In one embodiment, the at least one transition metal oxide is MnC> 2 . In one embodiment, the at least one transition metal oxide is M0O2. Brief description of the figures

The skilled person will understand that the figures, described below, are for illustration purposes only. The figures are not intended to limit the scope of the present teachings in any way.

FIG. 1 shows a model system of a (1 10) surface of a TMOs in its rutile structure. Large balls indicate metal atoms, small balls indicate carbon atoms and intermediate balls indicate oxygen atoms. CO is spectator and in all cases located on bridge site (except for Ir0 2 where we results are shown when CO is on a bridge site or on a cus site) while CO2RR takes place on other bridge and cus sites.

FIG. 2 shows in a) side view and b) top view of HCOOH on Ru0 2 surface c) Side view and d) top view of HCOO + H + complex on Ti0 2 surface. In both cases CO is spectator. According to our simulation only Ti0 2 and Cr0 2 dissociate HCOOH to the HCOO +H + complex but other surfaces such as Ir0 2 , Nb0 2 , Mo0 2 , Os0 2 , Hf0 2 , Pt0 2 , Rh0 2 , Mn0 2 , Pd0 2 can form the undissociated HCOOH species on their surfaces similar to Ru0 2 .

FIG. 3 shows free energy diagram forformic acid production at 0 vs RHE. The more endergonic step for each TMO indicates the required reducing potential.

FIG. 4 shows theoretical volcano for formation of formic acid from scaling relations (lines). For each of the TMOs the explicit limiting potential values are included (diamond). Each line is for one electron-proton transfer step, indicated by the numbers in parenthesis after each chemical equation to show the sequence of the reaction towards formic acid.

FIG. 5 shows free energy diagram for methanediol production at 0 vs RHE. The most endergonic step for each TMO indicates the required reducing potential.

FIG. 6 shows theoretical volcano for formation of methanediol from scaling relations (lines). For each of the TMOs the explicit limiting potential values are included (diamond). Each line is for one electron-proton transfer step, indicated by the numbers in parenthesis after each chemical equation to show the sequence of the reaction towards methanediol.

FIG. 7 shows theoretical volcano for formation of methanol from scaling relations (lines). For each of the TMOs the explicit limiting potential values are included (diamond). Each line is for one electron-proton transfer step, indicated by the numbers in parenthesis after each chemical equation to show the sequence of the reaction towards methanol.

FIG. 8 shows theoretical volcano for formation of methane from scaling relations (lines). For each of the TMOs the explicit limiting potential values are included (diamond). Each line is for one electron-proton transfer step, indicated by the numbers in parenthesis after each chemical equation to show the sequence of the reaction towards methane.

FIG. 9 shows theoretical activity and selectivity volcano for methane, methanol, methanediol and formic acid production. Solid line on left and upper solid right on right indicate left and right sides of the volcano for formation of formic acid. Dashed line on left and lower solid line on right denote left and right sides of the volcano for formation of methane and methanol, and finally, solid line on left and lower solid line on right are for formation of methanediol. Two dashed lines (one in -0.34 eV and the other in -0.21 ) also separate the volcano into two main areas: the right area (AGOH>-0.21 eV) that is selective toward formic acid and the left area (AGOH<-0.34 eV) that is selective toward methane, methanol and methanediol. Furthermore, there is an area between -0.34 eV and -0.21 eV which is very active but without any specific selectivity.

FIG. 10 shows free energy diagram for OCHO, H and COOH on the TMO surfaces at 0 V. Negative values for H and COOH for each TMO are showing higher possibilities for getting poisoned by those species. For each metal oxide, the columns indicate free energy for OCHO (left column), H (right column) and COOH (middle column), respectively.

FIG. 11 shows scaling figure for COOH adsorption free energy vs. hydrogen binding free energy. If COOH is formed as a species on the surface, it can lead to CO formation or CO poisoning. A strong H binding energy will lead to H poisoning and H 2 formation whereas a weak H adsorption would prevent proton adsorption until at more negative potentials. Here, we can see an area which indicate weaker COOH and hydrogen binding energies. Based on our analysis, we concluded that if a catalyst is found there, it would be the most promising candidate for CO2RR, since there is smaller chance of surface poisoning by CO and H.

FIG. 12 shows scaling figure for OH binding free energy vs. hydrogen binding free energy, where the OH is chosen as it is the descriptor on our volcano-graphs, and the catalysts with the lowest onset potentials for CO2RR are located within the dashed lines. The hydrogen binding free energy can be used as an estimate of hydrogen evolution activity. Comparing hydrogen evolution activity with CO2RR activity show that Cr0 2 is more selective towards CO2RR than HER and the only candidate located in this active and selective area.

FIGs 13-20 show scaling relations for CO2RR network studied in this work as illustrated in the above figures. This network includes OCHO (FIG. 13), HCOOH (FIG. 14), H 2 COOH (FIG. 15), O (FIG. 17), CH 2 0 (FIG. 16), CH3O+OH (FIG. 19), CH 3 0 (FIG. 18), OH, O+OH (FIG. 20) as intermediates. In these figures, it has been shown that the adsorption free energy of different intermediates correlate linearly with OH adsorption free energy. FIGs 21 -33 show free energy diagrams for all the metal oxide catalysts investigated. Different reaction pathways for formic acid, methanediol, methanol, and methane products are also presented in these figures. Potential limiting step is only presented for methanol with highlighted line.

FIG. 34 shows four different surface types that are observed when water is included in the model. Each of the surfaces (a, b, c, d) correspond to the respective four types of surfaces as described in Table 7 herein, from top to bottom (i.e., a) shows the first category that includes RUC>2, NbC>2, M0O2 and ZrC>2, b) shows the second category that includes lrC>2 and OsC>2, c) shows the third category that includes T1O2, and d) shows the fourth category that includes Pt0 2 , RI7O2, CrC>2, VO2, MnC>2 and PdC>2.)

FIG. 35 shows a theoretical volcano plot for formation of formic acid from scaling relations (lines) in the presence of water. For each of the TMOs the explicit limiting potential values are included (filled squares).

FIG. 36 shows a theoretical volcano for formation of methane and methanol from scaling relations (lines) in the presence of water. For each of the TMOs the explicit limiting potential values are included (filled squares).

FIG. 37 shows a theoretical volcano for formation of formic acid, methane and methanol from scaling relations (lines) in the presence of water. For each of the TMOs the explicit limiting potential values are included (filled squares).

FIG. 38 shows a scaling figure for COOH adsorption free energy vs. hydrogen binding free energy in the presence of water molecules. If COOH is formed as a species on the surface, it can lead to CO formation or CO poisoning. A strong H binding energy will lead to H poisoning and H2 formation whereas a weak H adsorption would prevent proton adsorption until at more negative potentials. The area that indicates weak COOH and hydrongen binding energies is likely to indlude promising catalysts for CO2RR.

FIG. 39 shows scaling figure for OH binding free energy vs. hydrogen binding free energy in the presence of water, where OH is chosen as it is the descriptor on the volcano graphs. Comparing hydrogen evolution activity with CO2RR activity shows that Mn0 2 , Cr0 2 and Rh0 2 are more selective towards CO2RR than HER.

FIG. 40 shows scaling figure for OH binding free energy vs. hydrogen binding free energy for both 25% and 50% coverage of CO as a spectator species, where OH is chosen as it is the descriptor on the volcano graphs. By varying the CO coverage, the activity and selectivity can be tuned and M0O2 becomes active and selective towards methanol formation when the CO coverage is 50%.

Description

In the following, exemplary embodiments of the invention will be described, referring to the figures. These examples are provided to provide further understanding of the invention, without limiting its scope.

In the following description, a series of steps are described. The skilled person will appreciate that unless required by the context, the order of steps is not critical for the resulting configuration and its effect. Further, it will be apparent to the skilled person that irrespective of the order of steps, the presence or absence of time delay between steps, can be present between some or all of the described steps.

As used herein, including in the claims, singular forms of terms are to be construed as also including the plural form and vice versa, unless the context indicates otherwise. Thus, it should be noted that as used herein, the singular forms“a,”“an,” and“the” include plural references unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.

Throughout the description and claims, the terms “comprise”, “including”, “having”, and “contain” and their variations should be understood as meaning“including but not limited to”, and are not intended to exclude other components.

The present invention also covers the exact terms, features, values and ranges etc. in case these terms, features, values and ranges etc. are used in conjunction with terms such as about, around, generally, substantially, essentially, at least etc. (i.e., "about 3" shall also cover exactly 3 or "substantially constant" shall also cover exactly constant).

The term“at least one” should be understood as meaning“one or more”, and therefore includes both embodiments that include one or multiple components. Furthermore, dependent claims that refer to independent claims that describe features with “at least one” have the same meaning, both when the feature is referred to as“the” and“the at least one”.

The present invention is based on the surprising discovery that on the surface of certain transition metal oxide catalysts, it is possible to reduce carbon dioxide under conditions of low temperature and pressure, including at ambient temperature and pressure, using a low applied potential. Given the surge in atmospheric C0 2 levels and the resulting impact on climate, the invention provides important advances in carbon neutral energy technology. Carbonaceous fuel, such as methanol or methane, can be used in current transportation systems without major investments in infrastructure or new technologies, and can also avoid or minimize use of battery-based energy storage.

The invention therefore provides an important advance in the development of technologies that can reduce C0 2 levels to produce organic feedstock such as combustible fuels.

Thus, the invention provides processes and systems for the electrochemical reduction of CO2 at ambient temperature and pressure. Reaction products include methane, methanol, methanediol and/or formic acid. However, as will be apparent to the skilled person, the reduction of CO2 can be geared to produce the desired product or mixture of products, by selecting the appropriate catalyst surface and/or adjusting the applied voltage to electrochemical cell.

In the process and system of the present invention, an electrolytic cell is used that can be any cell from a range of conventional commercially suitable and feasible electrolytic cell designs that can accommodate a special purpose cathode in accordance with the invention. Thus, the cell and system can in certain embodiment have one or more cathode cells and one or more anode cells.

An electrolytic cell in the present context is an electrochemical cell that undergoes a redox reaction when electrical energy is applied to the cell.

The skilled person will appreciate that chemical compounds as described herein are provided by their chemical formula irrespective of their phase or state. In particular, compounds that are present in their gaseous state when present in a pure and isolated form at room temperature (such as CO2) are herein described by their chemical formula. For example, carbon dioxide is herein described as CO2, whether present as a gas, as individual molecules, in clusters, bound to surfaces or present as a solute, and the same applies to other molecular species described herein.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be provided by any one of bicarbonate (HC03 ). carbonate (CO3 2 ) and/or carbonic acid (H2CO 3 ). For example, bicarbonate and carbonate can be provided as bicarbonate or carbonate salts, either in pure form or in a mixture into a solution, that can preferably be an aqueous solution. A mixture of any of bicarbonate, carbonate and carbonic acid will reach equilibrium in solution. Thus, as apparent to the skilled person, the relative concentration of these species will depend on pH of an aqueous solution. An alternate source of CO2 is the gaseous form of the compound, CC>2 ( g ) . Gaseous CO2 can be provided as a sole source of CO2, or it can be provided as a supplement to other sources of CO2 in the cell, including the aforementioned bicarbonate, carbonate and carbonic acid.

The proton donor in the electrochemical reactions taking place in the reduction of CO2 can be any suitable substance that is capable of donating protons in the electrolytic cell. The proton donor can for example be an acid, such as any suitable organic or inorganic acid. The proton donor can be provide in an acidic, neutral or alkaline aqueous solutions. The proton donor can also, or alternatively, be provided by H2 oxidation at the anode. I.e. hydrogen can be considered as a source of protons: H2 <=> 2(H + + e ).

The electrolytic cell in general comprises at least three general parts or components, a cathode electrode, an anode electrode and an electrolyte.

The electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is the conversion of carbon dioxide to more reduced chemical species using electrical energy.

The different parts or components can be provided in separate containers, or they can be provided in a single container. The electrolyte can be an aqueous solution in which ions are dissolved. When provided as an aqueous solution, the aqueous solution can be a neutral, an alkaline or an acidic solution. In some embodiments, the aqueous solution is an acidic solution.

In general terms, the catalyst on the electrode surface should ideally have the following characteristics: It should (a) be chemically stable, it should (b) not become reduced or otherwise consumed during the electrolytic process, it should facilitate the formation of carbon- containing products, and (d) use of the catalyst should lead to the production of minimal amount of hydrogen gas. As will be further described, the catalyst oxides according to the invention fulfill these characteristics.

The catalyst can comprise one or more stabiliser that serves the role of preventing degradation of the catalyst. Suitable stabilisers should be more stable to degradation than the metal oxide(s) being employed, but otherwise are inert with respect to the catalytic reactions taking place on the electrode surface. Exemplary stabilisers include, but is not limited to, metal oxycarbides, metal oxynitrides, bimetallic oxides and the like.

The transition metal oxides can also be provided as a thin layer (e.g., as few layers or as a monolayer) on a stable and conductive surface.

An advantage of the present invention is that the process can be suitably operated using suitable electrolyte solutions. The electrolyte solution can be non-aqueous or aqueous. For example, the electrolyte solution can comprise, or consist of an aqueous solutions containing dissolved electrolytes (salts). Thus, in certain embodiments of the process and system, the electrolytic cell comprises one or more aqueous electrolytic solutions, in one or more cell compartments. Individual cell compartments can be separated by suitable barriers, such as membranes that allow electrolytes to pass through. Aqueous electrolyte solutions may comprise any of various typical inorganic or organic salts such as but limited to soluble salts of e.g. chloride, nitrate, chlorate bromide, etc. e.g. sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, ammonium chloride, and other suitable salts. The aqueous electrolyte solutions may also comprise any one, or a combination of, alkali or alkaline earth metal oxides, such as sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, rubidium hydroxide and cesium hydroxide. The aqueous electrolyte solution can preferably comprise carbonate, bicarbonate or carbonic acid. The aqueous electrolyte solution can also further comprise one or more organic or inorganic acids. Inorganic acids can include mineral acids that include but are not limited to, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, boric acid, hydrofluoric acid, hydrobromic acid, and perchloric acid. The electrolyte can alternatively be provided as a protic or aprotic, non-aqueous solution. For example, the electrolyte can be provided as an ionic liquid, i.e. as a molten salt, for example a sodium chloride salt.

As appears from herein, the essential feature of the present invention concerns the composition and structure of the cathode electrode. Transition metal oxides have a wide variety of surface structures which affect the surface energy of these compounds and influence their chemical properties. The relative acidity and basicity of the atoms present on the surface of metal oxides are also affected by the coordination of the metal cation and oxygen anion, which alter the catalytic properties of these compounds.

In certain embodiments of the process, method or device in accordance with the invention, the transition metal oxide catalyst on the cathode electrode surface comprises one or more of the following: ruthenium oxide (RUO 2 ), hafnium oxide (HfC> 2 ), iridium oxide (lrC> 2 ), titanium oxide (T1O2), osmium oxide (OSO2), rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), niobium oxide (NbC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), palladium oxide (PdC>2), platinum oxide (PtC>2), rhenium oxide (ReC>2), zirconium oxide (ZrC>2), vanadium oxide (VO2) and molybdenum oxide (M0O2).

In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more of of hafnium oxide (HfC>2), iridium oxide (lrC>2), osmium oxide (OSO2), rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), niobium oxide (NbC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), palladium oxide (PdC>2), rhenium oxide (ReC> 2 ), zirconium oxide (ZrC> 2 ), vanadium oxide (VO 2 ) and molybdenum oxide (M0O2). In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more of of hafnium oxide (HfC>2), titanium oxide (T1O2), osmium oxide (OSO2), rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), niobium oxide (NbC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), palladium oxide (PdC>2), platinum oxide (PtC>2), rhenium oxide (ReC>2), zirconium oxide (ZrC>2), vanadium oxide (VO2) and molybdenum oxide (M0O 2 ).

In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more of of hafnium oxide (HfC>2), osmium oxide (OSO2), rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), niobium oxide (NbC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), palladium oxide (PdC>2), rhenium oxide (ReC>2), zirconium oxide (ZrC> 2 ), vanadium oxide (VO 2 ) and molybdenum oxide (M0O 2 ).

In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more of titanium oxide (T1O2), hafnium oxide (HfC>2), osmium oxide (OSO2), rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), molybdenum oxide (M0O2), zirconium oxide (ZrC>2), vanadium oxide (VO 2 ).

In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more hafnium oxide (HfC>2), osmium oxide (OSO2), rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), molybdenum oxide (M0O2), zirconium oxide (Zr02), vanadium oxide (VO2).

In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more of rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), molybdenum oxide (M0O2), zirconium oxide (ZrC>2), vanadium oxide (VO2).

In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more of of rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2) and molybdenum oxide (M0O2).

In one embodiment, the transition metal oxide catalyst comprises one or more of of rhodium oxide (RhC>2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2).

Depending on the substance composition of the catalyst, a suitable surface crystal structure may be preferred. Various different crystal structures exist for transition metal oxides and different structures can be obtained at different growth conditions. It is within scope of the skilled person to select appropriate surface crystal structures.

It may be preferable that the catalyst comprise at least one surface having a rutile structure. Other crystal structures known in the art (e.g., rocksalt structure, zincblende structure, anatase structure, perovskite structure) are also possible (see., e.g., International Tables for Crystallography; http://it.iucr.orq). Several different surface facets may exist for a given crystal structure (polycrystalline surfaces). The (1 10) facet of rutile exhibits the lowest surface free energy and is therefore in general thermodynamically most stable. Accordingly, in some embodiments, the transition metal oxides can be of rutile structure with a (1 10) facet providing the catalytic surface. Alternatively, the (100) and/or the (1 1 1 ) facets of the rocksalt structure can be chosen.

Thus, in some embodiments, the catalyst surface is a transition metal rutile surface. The surface can have any suitable facet, including but not limited to the (1 10) facet. In some embodiments, the surface facet comprises, or consists of, the (1 10) facet of a transition metal oxide selected from the group consisting of Ru0 2 , Hf0 2 , Ir0 2 , Ti0 2 , Os0 2 , Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Nb0 2 , Mn0 2 , Pd0 2 , Pt0 2 , Re0 2 , Zr0 2 , V0 2 and Mo0 2 . For example, the surface facet can comprise, or consist of, the (1 10) facet of a transition metal oxide selected from the group consisting of Hf0 2 , Ir0 2 , Os0 2 , Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Nb0 2 , Mn0 2 , Pd0 2 , Re0 2 , Zr0 2 , V0 2 and Mo0 2 .

In some preferred embodiments, the catalyst comprises the (1 10) facet of the rutile structure of one or more oxide selected from Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Mn0 2 , Pd0 2 and Pt0 2 .

In some preferred embodiments, the catalyst comprises the (1 10) facet of the rutile structure of one or more oxide selected from Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Mn0 2 , Mo0 2 , and Pd0 2 .

In some preferred embodiments, the catalyst comprises a the (1 10) facet of the rutile structure of one or more oxide selected from Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Mo0 2 and Mn0 2 .

In a preferred embodiment, the catalyst comprises a the (1 10) facet of the rutile structure of Mn0 2 . In another preferred embodiment, the catalyst comprises a the (1 10) facet of the rutile structure Cr0 2 . In another preferred embodiment, the catalyst comprises a the (1 10) facet of the rutile structure of one or more oxide selected from Rh0 2 . In another preferred embodiment, the catalyst comprises a the (1 10) facet of the rutile structure of one or more oxide selected from MO0 2 .

A rutile metal oxide surface having a (1 10) facet contains metal atoms of two different coordination environments, where rows of sixfold coordinated metal atoms alternate with rows of fivefold coordinated metal atoms along the [001] direction. Whereas the sixfold coordinated metal atoms have approximately the same geometry as bulk, the fivefold coordinated metal atoms have an unsaturated bond perpendicular to the surface. Thus two distinct surface sites are found, coordinatively unsaturated sites (cus-sites) on top of the 5-fold coordinated metal atoms and bridging sites (br-sites) between two sixfold coordinated metal atoms.

In certain embodiments of the invention, the catalyst surface is provided as a pure transition metal oxide, i.e. the catalyst comprises a single transition metal oxide, i.e. the catalyst for example does not contain a mixture of transition metal oxides or one transition metal oxide that is coated by one or several layers of a second (or more) transition metal oxide.

Thus, as will be apparent to the skilled person, the catalyst according to the invention can comprise a single transition metal oxide. The catalyst can also comprise, or consist of, a mixture of two or more such oxides. Such mixed oxides can comprise a single structure, for example a rutile structure. The mixed metal oxides can also comprise a mixture of oxides that are of different crystal structures and/or oxides with different catalytic facets. Accordingly, such mixed oxides can further comprise a single, or a mixture of, facets. Mixed oxide catalysts can be grown or manufactured separately and then assembled into mixed catalysts comprising the different metal oxides, wherein the oxides in the mixture have the same or different crystal structures.

As described in more detail herein, running a current through the electrolytic cell leads to a chemical reaction in which carbon dioxide (CO2) is reduced in a series of steps with protons to ultimately form one or more products, including methane, methanol, formic acid and methanediol. The running of current is achieved by applying a voltage to the cell. The invention makes possible electrolytic production of these products at a low electrode potential, which is beneficial in terms of energy efficiency and equipment demands.

The electrolytic cell can be operated at an ambient pressure of about 1 atmospheres. The electrolytic cell can also be operated at higher pressure, i.e. pressure that is greater than ambient pressure. For example, the cell can be operated at a pressure of up to 30 atmospheres, up to 20 atmospheres or up to 10 atmospheres. In some embodiments, the electrolytic cell is operated at a pressure that is in the range of 1 to 30 atmospheres, in the range of 1 to 20 atmospheres, in the range of 1 to 10 atmospheres, in the range of 1 to 5 atmospheres or in the range of 1 to 3 atmospheres. The electrolytic cell can also be operated at a pressure that is in the range of 2 to 20 atmospheres, in the range of 3 to 20 atmospheres, in the range of 4 to 20 atmospheres, or in the range of 5 to 20 atmospheres, such as at about 5 atmospheres, about 6 atmospheres, about 7 atmospheres, about 8 atmospheres, about 9 atmospheres, about 10 atmospheres, about 1 1 atmospheres, about 12 atmospheres, about 13 atmospheres, about 14 atmospheres, about 15 atmospheres, about 16 atmospheres, about 17 atmospheres, about 18 atmospheres, about 19 atmospheres or about 20 atmospheres.

The electric potential can be applied as a constant or variable electric potential. Pulsed electric fields generated by such pulsed potentials can be varied by adjusting a number of parameters, such as: electric field intensity, rise time of voltage pulses, number of pulses, frequency of pulses, pulse wave shape, treatment time (i.e. the time the pulse is applied, resulting in the product of the number of pulses and the duration of each pulse).

In certain useful embodiments of the invention, product can be formed at an electrode potential at less than about -0.7 V, less than about -0.6 V, less than about 0.5 V, less than about -0.4 V, or less than about -0.3 V. In some embodiments, product formation occurs at electrode potential in the range of about -0.7 V to about 0.0 V, such as in the range of about -0.5 V to about 0.0 V, or in the range of about -0.35 V to about 0.0 V. The upper limit (i.e., more negative potential limit) of the range can be about -0.3 V, about -0.4 V, about -0.5 V, about -0.6 V, or about -0.7 V. The lower limit (i.e. less negative potential limit) of the range can be about 0.0 V, about -0.1 V, about -0.2 V, or about -0.3 V.

The composition of products obtained in the reduction of CO2 can be altered by selective adjustment of applied potential for any given catalyst surface. Thus, volcano plots show that, depending on the relative binding energies of adsorbed intermediates, the selectivity changes depending on the applied voltage.

For example, in some embodiments, formic acid can specifically be formed at an electrode potential that is in the range of about -0.3 V to about -0.1 V. In some embodiments, methanol, methane and methanediol can selectively be formed using an electrode potential of about -0.4 V to about -0.2 V. In some embodiments, any one or a mixture of formic acid, methanol, methane and methanediol can be formed at an electrode potential of about -0.3 V to about - 0.2 V.

The preferred catalyst can be selected from MnC>2, M0O2, RI7O2 and CrC>2. In certain embodiments, the catalyst comprises CrC>2. In certain other embodiments, the catalyst comprises RhC>2. In certain other embodiments, the catalyst comprises MnC>2. In certain other embodiments, the catalyst comprises M0O2.

In a preferred embodiment, the catalyst surface is a MnC>2 , MoC>2or CrC>2 surface having a rutile structure, and the applied voltage for selective formation of methanol, methane and/or methanediol is in the range of about -0.4 V to about -0.2 V.

In another preferred embodiment, the catalyst surface is a MnC>2, MoC>2 or CrC>2 surface having a rutile structure, and the applied voltage for selective formation of formic acid selectively is in the range of about -0.3 V to about 0.0 V, preferably in the range of about -0.3V to about -0.1V.

In a preferred embodiment, the catalyst surface is a MnC>2, MoC>2 or CrC>2 surface having a rutile structure, and the applied voltage for the generation of any one of formic acid, methanol, methane and/or methanediol can be formed at an electrode potential of about -0.3 V to about -0.2 V.

An advantage of the present invention is the efficiency of product (i.e., methanol, methane, methanediol and/or formic acid) formation over the side-product hh formation, which has been a challenge in prior art investigations and trials, due to the competing binding energies of hydrogen over oxygen on the catalyst surface. In certain embodiments, less than about 50% moles H2 are formed compared to moles product formed, and preferably less than about 40% moles H2, less than about 30% moles H2, less than about 20% moles H2, less than about 10% moles H2, less than about 5% moles H2, less than about 2% moles H2, or less than about 1 % moles H2.

The pathway of CO2 reduction depends on the relative energies of reaction intermediates. Thus, the pathway can depend on the system within which the reaction takes place, including for example the catalytic surface being used in the reaction.

The active part of an industrial heterogeneous catalyst is most commonly a solid surface, e.g. a metal or metal oxide. The surface offers a low-barrier energy path from reactants to products, by binding reactants and reaction intermediates. The binding energy of reactants to the surface must be strong enough to produce reaction intermediates, but weak enough to allow products to leave the surface, allowing more reactions to take place on the surface. This duality is the basis of the so-called Sabatier principle, which states that for a reaction, there is an optimum binding energy for an intermediate, such that both stronger and weaker binding leads to lower activity. The result is a volcano-shaped relationship, commonly referred to as a Volcano plot.

Catalyst activity can in general be modified by altering the local electronic structure by strain, ligand, substitution and/or alloying. These alterations lead to changes in binding energies of reaction intermediates, and thereby alter the thermodynamics of the overall reaction profile.

The concept of scaling relations is based on the linear relationship between binding energies of adsorbates that bind through the same type of atoms (e.g., C * , CH * and CH2 * binding through a C atom). Based on such relationships, the energetics of elementary steps of a chemical reaction pathway can be expressed by using a few binding energies as descriptors, allowing modelling of such pathways using fewer parameters.

The relationship between adsorbate binding energies and activity is not straight-forward for a complex reaction such as CO2 reduction. It has however been found that there is a linear correlation between the adsorption free energy of different adsorbate intermediates involved in C0 2 reduction (i.e., OCHO, HCOOH, H 2 COOH, O, CH 2 0, CH 3 0 + OH, CH 3 0 and O + OH) and OH free energy. This simplifies the analysis, as illustrated by the following Examples, since this allows OH to be used as a descriptor for the different potential pathways.

The present invention can be described by the following non-limiting embodiments:

1. A method for the electrolytic reduction of C0 2 , the method comprising: providing an electrolytic cell comprising at least one reaction chamber comprising at least one anode and at least one cathode, wherein the at least one cathode comprises at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide; placing at least one electrolyte solution between the at least one anode and the at least one cathode, so that the at least one anode and the at least one cathode come into contact with the electrolyte solution; providing C0 2 in the electrolyte solution; and applying electrical potential to the electrolytic cell; whereby C0 2 undergoes at least one reduction reaction at the cathode to provide at least one product selected from the group consisting of methanol, methane, methanediol and formic acid.

2. The method of embodiment 1 , wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of Ti02, Hf0 2 , 0s0 2 , Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Nb0 2 , Mn0 2 , Pd0 2 , Pt0 2 , Re0 2 , Zr0 2 , V0 2 and Mo0 2 , preferably Hf0 2 , 0s0 2 , Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Nb0 2 , Mn0 2 , Pd0 2 , Re0 2 , Zr0 2 , V0 2 and Mo0 2

3. The method of embodiment 1 or embodiment 2, wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Mn0 2 , Pd0 2 and Pt0 2 , preferably Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Mn0 2 , Mo0 2 and Pd0 2 .

4. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , Mo0 2 and Mn0 2 .

5. The method of any one of the previous embodiments, wherein the catalyst surface comprises a single transition metal oxide.

6. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the catalyst surface is provided as a pure transition metal oxide. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the catalyst surface comprises a mixture of transition metal oxides. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the catalyst surface is provided on a cathode that comprises at least one metal, metal alloy or steel, including stainless steel. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the C0 2 is comprised in a solution in the electrolytic cell, wherein the solution comprises at least one electrolyte that is provided between the anode and the cathode. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the electrolyte comprises at least one source of carbon dioxide selected from bicarbonate and carbonic acid. The method of embodiment 9 or embodiment 10, wherein CO2 is provided by a stream of CO2 gas that is fed into the electrolytic solution. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the electrolytic cell comprises an anode within one cell compartment and a cathode within another cell compartment. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the process is carried out at a temperature in the range of about 0°C to about 50°C, preferably about 10°C to about 40°C, more preferably about 20°C to about 30°C, even more preferably about 20°C to about 25°C.

The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, characterized in that the method is carried out at ambient pressure.

The method of any one of the embodiments 1 -13, characterized in that the method is carried out at a pressure in the range of 1 to 30 atmospheres, preferably in the range of 1 to 20 atmospheres, preferably in the range of 1 to 10 atmospheres, more preferably in the range of 1 to 5 atmospheres.

The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the catalyst surface comrises at least one surface having a rutile structure.

The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the catalyst surface comprises at least one surface having a (1 10) facet.

The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein an electrode potential that is less than about -0.5 V using a reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE) as a reference, is applied to the electrolytic cell. 19. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein less than 50% moles H2 are formed compared to moles CO2 that is reduced.

20. The method of any one of the preceding embodiments, wherein the at least one reduction product is selected from the group consisting of methane, methanol and methandiol.

21 . The method of the preceding embodiment, wherein an electrode potential that is in the range of about -0.4 V to about -0.2 V is applied to the electrolytic cell.

22. The method of any one of the embodiments 1 to 18, wherein the at least one reduction product is formic acid.

23. The method of the previous embodiment, wherein an electrode potential that is in the range of about -0.4 V to about -0.1 V is applied to the electrolytic cell.

24. An electrochemical device for the reduction of carbon dioxide to at least one reaction product, the device comprising at least one electrochemical cell that comprises an anode and a cathode, wherein the cathode comprises at least one cathode electrode having at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide.

25. The electrochemical device of the previous embodiment, wherein the at least one reaction product is selected from the group consisting of methanol, methanediol, methane and formic acid.

26. The electrochemical device of the previous embodiment, wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of HfC>2, OsC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, NbC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2, ReC>2, ZrC>2, VO2 and M0O2, more preferably selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, M0O2, and PdC>2, most preferably selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, M0O2, PdC>2.

27. The electrochemical device of any one of the preceding embodiments 24 to 26, wherein the catalyst surface comprises at least one surface having a rutile structure.

28. The electrochemical device of any one of the preceding embodiments 24 to 27 wherein the catalyst surface comprises at least one surface having a (1 10) facet.

29. The electrochemical device of any one of the preceding embodiments 24 to 28, wherein the electrolytic cell is further characterized in that the cathode electrode is disposed within a compartment that comprises an electrolyte solution.

30. A process for the catalytic reduction of carbon dioxide, comprising: introducing CO2 to a solution comprising at least one electrolyte in an electrolytic cell so that the CO2 comes into contact with at least one cathode electrode surface; and applying a potential to said electrolytic cell, whereby C0 2 reacts with protons to form at least one product selected from methanol, methane, methanediol and formic acid; wherein the cathode electrode surface comprises at least one catalyst surface comprising at least one transition metal oxide.

31 . The process of the preceding embodiment, wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of HfC>2, OsC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, NbC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2, ReC>2, ZrC>2, VO2 and M0O2, more preferably selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, MnC>2, MoC>2 and PdC>2.

32. The process of any one of the preceding two embodiments, wherein the at least one transition metal oxide is selected from the group consisting of RhC>2, CrC>2, M0O2 and MnC>2.

33. The process of any one of the previous embodiments 30-32, wherein the catalyst surface comprises a single transition metal oxide.

34. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-32, wherein the catalyst surface comprises a mixture of transition metal oxides.

35. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-34 wherein the electrolyte comprises at least one of bicarbonate and carbonic acid as source of CO2.

36. The process of the previous embodiment, wherein the CO2 is further provided by a stream of CO2 gas that is fed into the electrolytic solution.

37. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments, 30-36 wherein the electrolytic cell comprises an anode within one cell compartment and a cathode within another cell compartment.

38. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-37 wherein the process is carried out at a temperature in the range of about 0°C to about 50°C, preferably about 10°C to about 40°C, more preferably about 20°C to about 30°C, even more preferably about 20°C to about 25°C.

39. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-38, characterized in that the process is carried out at ambient pressure.

40. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-39, wherein the catalyst surface comrises at least one surface having a rutile structure.

41 . The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-40, wherein the catalyst surface comprises at least one surface having a (1 10) facet. 42. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-41 , wherein an electrode potential that is less than about -0.5 V using a reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE) as a reference, is applied to the electrolytic cell.

43. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-42, wherein less than 50% moles H2 are formed compared to moles CO2 that is reduced.

44. The process of any one of the preceding embodiments 30-43, wherein the at least one reduction product is selected from the group consisting of methane, methanol and methandiol.

45. The process of the preceding embodiment, wherein an electrode potential that is in the range of about -0.4 V to about -0.2 V is applied to the electrolytic cell.

46. The process of any one of the embodiments 30-45, wherein the at least one reduction product is formic acid.

47. The process of the previous embodiment, wherein an electrode potential that is in the range of about -0.4 V to about -0.1 V is applied to the electrolytic cell.

The above features along with additional details of the invention, are described further in the examples below, which are intended to further illustrate the invention but are not intended to limit its scope in any way.

Examples

The present invention will now be illustrated by the following non-limiting examples.

Example 1

Computational Methods and Model Systems

The electronic structure calculations were performed using DFT within the BEEF-vdW functional in the VASP software (Wellendorff et al. (2012) Phys Rev B 85). All the lattice parameters were optimized based on BEEF-vdW for ruthenium oxide (RUO2), iridium oxide (lrC>2), niobium oxide (NbC>2), platinum oxide (PtC>2), titanium oxide (T1O2), chromium oxide (CrC>2), manganese oxide (MnC>2), rhodium oxide (RhC>2), osmium oxide (OSO2), hafnium oxide (HfC>2), molybdenum oxide (M0O2) and palladium oxide (PdC>2) in their rutile crystal structure. The BEEF-vdW lattice parameters for these metal oxides are calculated and presented in the following lattice table:

Lattice table. Shown are optimized lattice parameters for different metal oxides studied.

A plane wave basis set with a cutoff energy of 350 eV was used to expand the valence electron orbitals and the PAW method was used to represent core electrons (Blochl, Phys Rev B (1994) 50, 17953-79). Monkhorst Pack grid was used in order to reduce the number of k-points, which were 4x4x1 in all cases. The atomic structure of the various reactants and products was found by minimizing the energy until atomic forces had dropped below 0.03 eV/A.

The electrode was represented by a slab of four atomic layers with four metal atoms and eight oxygen atoms in each layer, and the slabs were separated with at least 16 A of vacuum. Atoms in the bottom two layers were fixed while the atoms in the top two layers along with the adsorbed intermediates were allowed to fully relax. The dipole correction was used in all cases to decouple the electrostatic interaction between the periodically repeated slabs.

The rutile (1 10) surface contains metal atoms of two different coordination environments. Rows of six-fold coordinated metal atoms alternate with rows of five-fold coordinated metal atoms along the [001] direction. Whereas the six-fold coordinated metal atoms have approximately the same geometry as bulk, the five-fold coordinated metal atoms have an unsaturated bond perpendicular to the surface. Thus, two distinct surface sites are found, coordinatively unsaturated sites (cus-sites) on top of the five-fold coordinated metal atoms and bridging sites (br-sites) between two six-fold coordinated metal atoms (FIG. 1 ). We found that the br-sites generally bind adsorbates stronger than the cus-sites do. On the stoichiometric (110) surface, the br-sites are occupied by oxygen, while the cus-sites are vacant. The bridging oxygen atoms are under-coordinated and can be reduced from the surface. In order to create a realistic model system of our rutile (1 10) surfaces for the CO2RR, we use the same assumptions as previously made by Karamad et al. (ACS Catal (2015)5, 4074-81 )and Bhowmik et al. (Chem Sus Chem (2016), 9, 3230-43). According to Bhowmik et al., the most active sites for CO2RR on their overlayers on Ru0 2 are the bridge sites in the presence of CO spectator which is located on every other bridge sites. For the TMO surfaces considered in this work, we also find the bridge sites to be most active for CO2RR, except for Pt0 2 where some intermediates prefer to bind the cus sites. For some adsorbed species they adsorb bidentate on all the TMOs and there they adsorb on both a bridge site and on a cus site. The model system is thus the rutile (1 10) surfaces in their reduced form, but with ¼ ML of CO adsorbed on the bridge sites for all the TMOs considered here (see FIG. 1 ), with resulting free energ diagrams as shown in FIGs 21 - 33. The only exception is Ir0 2 (two different free energy diagrams; see FIGs 22 & 23) since the differences between free energy of adsorbed CO when it is on the br-site and cus-site is 0.1 1 eV, and C0 2 RR will happen while CO is on cus-site as spectator. In order to maintain generality, we also include Ir0 2 when CO is on the bridge site. Throughout the figures, the bullet for Ir0 2 is for when CO spectator is on a br-site, while the black bullets are for when the CO spectator is on a cus-site.

The computational hydrogen electrode (CHE) model is a tool to approximate the reaction free energy of an electrochemical reaction (Norskov et al. J Phys Chem (2004) 108, 17886-92) at a certain applied potential. The potential effects have been included by adding an implicit term, eU. The reaction free energy at an arbitrary potential U vs. the standard hydrogen electrode (SHE) is given by

AGi(U) = AGi(U = 0) + eU (1 ) where e is the elementary charge. The AG, (U=0) is calculated for each elementary step:

AG(U = 0) = AE DFT + DE ZRE + DE 5o1 + DH 0 k t TAS (2) where AEDFT is calculated with DFT and DEZRE and AS are zero-point energy corrections and entropy differences which are calculated within the harmonic approximation for the adsorbed species, while the values for the gas phase species are taken from thermodynamical tables (Atkins & Paula, Atkins’ Physical Chemistry (2009)). AEsoi is the adsorbate stabilization term due to the solvent, which is not included in this study. DHok t is changes in internal energy because of temperature.

The energy of molecular C0 2 , H 2 and HCOOH are corrected by +0.3 eV, +0.1 eV and +0.15 eV, respectively, to correct for systematic DFT errors (Christensen et al. Catal Sci Technol (2015), 5, 4946-49). Reported reaction free energies and adsorbate binding free energies are referenced to the electronic energy of clean slab and C0 2(g) , H 2 0 (i) and H 2 < 9) free energies. Since C0 2 RR is typically done in a 0.1 to 0.5 M solution of KHCO 3 or NaHCOs, such solutions allow dilute formic acid to exist in a hydrated anion form (HCOO ). A free energy correction of -0.19 eV for deprotonation and solvation has therefore been included (Hansen, et al, Phys Chem Chem Phys (2016) 18, 9194-9201 ). The free energy of H2C(OH)2(aq) has been obtained from Hansen et al. (Catal Letters (2013), 143, 631 -35).

Simulation Results

7. Methane, Methanol, Methandiol and Formic Acid Pathways and Corresponding Onset Potentials

In the first electron-proton transfer step of CO2RR, two possible intermediates can be formed; OCHO (formate) or COOH (carboxyl). OCHO is found to be a more stable intermediate compared to COOH on all the TMO surfaces studied in this work. Therefore, all the reactions follow the pathways containing OCHO as an intermediate. The OCHO intermediate binds to the surface through both oxygen atoms (bidentate adsorption on one cus site and one bridge site) whereas COOH binds to the surface via its carbon atom to a bridge site.

A major competing reaction with CO2RR is the HER. In Table 1 , we estimate the onset potential for HER on the TMOs by calculating the binding free energy of a H adatom on the surfaces. In the discussion section, we will compare the onset potentials for CO2RR towards different products with that of HER in order to estimate the selectivity between these two reactions.

In addition to HER, CO formation should also be taken into account, as it can result in CO poisoning. CO formation only happens via COOH intermediate where CO2 is protonated to form carboxyl through the following reaction:

C0 2(g) + * + (H + + e-) ® COOH (6) where * is an active site on the catalyst ' s surface. In this description we do not include the * for the adsorbed intermediates but the state of the reactant and desorbed products are indicated with (g), (aq) or (I). Further protonation leads to CO formation on the surface:

COOH + (H + + e ) ® CO + H 2 0(l) (7) which may poison the surface of the catalyst because we find that the CO reduction to CHO or COH has high thermochemical barriers on those TMOs. The CO admolecules that may be formed on the surfaces are therefore spectator species during CO2RR. COOH binding free energy at U = 0 V was found to be negative for RUO2, Ir02, OSO2, M0O2 and Hf02, but positive for T1O2, Nb02, Cr02, RI7O2, Pt02, Pd02. However, at the onset potentials for CO2RR, the COOH adsorption is usually exergonic (but never as exergonic as the OCHO adsorption), and therefore a low CO coverage is expected to build up on the surfaces, while OCHO is the key intermediate of CO2RR. The first two protonation steps in CO2RR may lead to the formation of aqueous formic acid or adsorbed HCOOH species on the surface. Kackell et al. (Appl Surf Sci (2000), 166, 370-75; Surf Sci (2000) 461 , 191 -8) have shown that HCOOH(aq) on T1O2 surface should be in a dissociated form (HCOO + H + ) but according to the work done by Karamad et al. on RuC>2 (ACS Catal (2015) 5, 4075-81 ), HCOOH(aq) can adsorb on the surface in undissociated form (see RUC>2 in FIG. 2). We have included this possibility in this work and found that surfaces of T1O2 and CrC>2 will rather dissociate the formic acid into the HCOO and H + complex where HCOO binds to the bridge sites on the surface through its oxygen atoms but the proton binds to a surface oxygen atom (see T1O2 in FIG. 2). However, the undissociated HCOOH species is the intermediate that forms on the RUO2, Ir02, Hf02, OSO2, and M0O2. On the contrary, binding energy of HCOOH on Pd0 2 , Pt0 2 , Mn0 2 , and Rh0 2 surfaces is so weak that that intermediate cannot form on those surfaces, and therefore it desorbs into the solution as HCOOH(aq). So, for those catalysts, in order to produce higher electron proton transfer products, the reaction may continue via activation of formic acid in aqueous form.

Forth protonation step results in methanediol formation and further protonation (six or eight) leads to methanol or methane products, respectively. Several possible pathways for methanol and methane formation are presented in Tables 2 and 3 (see also FIGs 21 -33). For Rh0 2 , Pt0 2 , Mn0 2 , and Pd0 2 , HCOOH binds weakly to the surface and formic acid is the main product before formation of methanediol, methane and methanol may take place. In order for the reaction to proceed to more reduced products, HCOOH in aqueous form must be activated and for this to happen the reaction needs to be run in acidic condition leading to lower methanediol, methane and methanol efficiencies.

Similar to the work done by Bhowmik etal. (ChemSusChem (2016) 9, 3230-43), OH adsorption free energy is also taken here as a descriptor for other adsorbate binding free energies to map the multi-demensional problem into one variable. With this we obtain activity volcanos (and to some extent selectivity volcanos) for different products on metal oxide surfaces. Our pathway for methane and methanol formation on RUO2 is quite similar to the pathway used by Bhomwik et al (ChemSusChem (2016) 9, 3230-43). A small difference exists between the pathways presented herein and that reported by Karamad et al. (ACS Catal (2015) 5, 4075-81 ), which is presumably because Karamad ' s work is based on the RPBE functional whereas here we use the BEEF-vdW functional. Table 1. Onset potentials towards various products, OH removal potentials and methane and methanol pathways along wi potential limiting steps (number in the parenthesis, extracted from Tables 2 and 3)

Formic Acid and Methandiol Formation

Formic acid and methanediol are a two and four-step electron transfer products of CO2RR, respectively. As mentioned earlier, RhC>2, PtC>2, MnC>2, and PdC>2 cannot adsorb the HCOOH intermediate on their surfaces and therefore these catalysts have the potential of producing aqueous formic acid. FIGs 3 and 4 and Table 3 show that among these candidates, PtC>2 and RhC>2 have the smallest onset potentials towards formic acid, or -0.14 V and -0.19 V, respectively. In Table 1 the onset potentials for the HER are estimated from the adsorption free energy of a H adatom. For RhC>2, the hydrogen binding free energy is -0.06 eV whereas the binding free energy of OCHO is -0.19 eV, and therefore a higher efficiency towards formic acid is expected than towards H2. On the other hand, for Pt0 2 the hydrogen binding free energy is -0.16 eV but the binding free energy of OCHO is 0.14 eV, and therefore HER is expected to dominate over CO2RR. In the other words, Rh0 2 has low activity towards HER (in CO2 saturated solution) but high activity towards formic acid, and thus these factor make Rh02 the best candidate for production of formic acid. It should be noted here that without CO2 in the solution, Rh0 2 is predicted here to have very small onset potential for HER.

CrC>2 is another candidate located very close to the top of the formic acid volcano (FIG. 4), with predicted onset potential of -0.27 V (Table 1 ). The free energy of the adsorbed HCOOH species (actually as a HCOO +H + complex on Cr0 2 as explained above) is only 0.01 eV lower than the free energy of HCOOH (aq) and therefore Cr0 2 is expected to both evolve formic acid as well as more reduced products (discussed below). The hydrogen binding free energy on Cr0 2 is 0.29 eV whereas the OCHO binding free energy is -0.33 eV, meaning that this catalyst should be much more selective towards CO2RR than HER.

CO2RR towards methanediol requires four proton-electron transfer steps. Cr0 2 is also on the top of the volcano for methanediol formation (Figures 5 and 6) with predicted onset potential of -0.31 V (Table 1 ). Rh0 2 and Pt0 2 are also located at the top of this volcano but those TMOs are predicted to be more selective towards formic acid formation as discussed above.

3-Methane and Methanol Formation

CO2RR towards methanol and methane requires 6 and 8 proton-electron transfer steps, respectively. Table 1 shows methanol and methane onset potentials and the thermodynamically potential limiting steps (PLS). The corresponding volcanos are presented in FIGs 7 and 8, respectively. Since the mechanism to either of those products is not the same for all TMOs, we simplify these volcano plots by only including reactions steps that exist in the minimum free energy pathway towards the products. This divides our volcano plots into different regions, depending on our descriptor; the binding energy of OH on the surfaces. As an example, in both of these volcano plots the intersection of OCHO®HCOOH and OCHO®HCOOH(aq) lines is around -0.34 eV with respect to our descriptor. This can be seen from the change in slope of the red line at this value. Therefore, reduction of OCHO will form adsorbed HCOOH intermediate for the more reactive TMOs (binding OH stronger than -0.34 eV) while it will form desorbed HCOOH(aq) product on the less reactive TMOs (binding OH weaker than -0.34 eV). This may affect the subsequent steps, and therefore we only include the intermediates that are a part of the reaction network, for a given TMOs (or a region on the volcano plot). In several other cases, the lines are broken in a similar way.

For the left leg of the methanol volcano (FIG. 7) there are three PLS; OH removal to water, CHsO ® CHsOH (aq), and OCHO ® HCOOH. The OH removal and the CH 3 0® CH 3 OH(aq) step overlap completely, meaning that those two reaction steps are the same in magnitude (or at least very similar) for a given TMOs. The OCHO ® HCOOH step, however, only becomes the PLS close to the top of the volcano, but there it overlaps with the aforementioned steps. For the left leg of the methane volcano (FIG. 8), we have the same PLS, except for the CH 3 0 ® CH 3 OH (aq) step, which is of course not a part of the reaction network. Thus, the OH removal potential may be considered as a representative of the left leg for both the methanol and the methane volcanos. For the right leg of both of the volcanos (where Pt0 2 , Rh0 2 , Mn0 2 , and Pd0 2 are located), the HCOOH (aq) ® H 2 COOH step is PLS. However, as discussed above, those TMOs will start evolving formic acid at smaller potentials.

The top of the volcano for methane and methanol is in both cases around AGOH= -0.21 eV. Cr0 2 is located at the top of both volcanos with predicted onset potential of -0.31 V (Table 1 ). The main conclusion here is that catalysts with AGOH > -0.21 eV are selective towards formic acid, but those with AGOH < -0.21 eV are selective towards methane, methanol, and methanediol. Cr0 2 is, however, predicted to produce all these products (formic acid, methane, methanol, and methanediol) at small onset potentials of around -0.3 V in all cases (Table 1 ).

Experimental work for methanol formation on Ru0 2 , Ti0 2 , and Ir0 2 have shown that these oxides are selective towards methanol at potentials between -0.5 V to -1 V vs. RHE. Our calculations confirm this and the predicted onset potentials we found for Ru0 2 (-0.80 V), Ir0 2 (-0.85 V), and Ti0 2 (-0.99 V) are very close to the experimental values. Discussion

Similar to the work done by Bhomwik et al, we observed that OH adsorption energy is a very good descriptor for CO2RR on pure TMOs, as it was for the TMO overlayers on Ru0 2 . All the intermediates in the reaction network (Tables 1 and 2) bind to the surface through oxygen atom(s), except the CH 2 0 species, which bind through both the oxygen atom and the carbon atom. Subsequent protonation of CH2O to the next possible intermediates (CH2OH or CH3O), always leads to the formation of the CH3O intermediate for all the TMOs considered in this work. Therefore, CH2OH is not a part of the reaction pathway to methane or methanol and not included in Table 1 or 2. The reaction network presented in both the work of Karamad et al. (ACS Catal (2015) 5, 4075-81 ) and Bhomwik et al. (ChemSusChem (2016) 9, 3230-43) is very similar, but not completely the same. In our work we include all the intermediates presented in their work and we find that the network presented in Karamad’s work (for Ru0 2 ) captures all the different lowest free energy reaction pathways on all the TMOs considered here. We find the scaling relations of all the intermediates included in the overall reaction network as a function of the binding energy of the OH species (see FIGs 13-20). Those scaling relations are then used to construct volcano diagrams.

For the TMO surfaces to catalyze the CO2RR continuously, the surfaces need to be cleaned of OH species, but in all of the reaction pathways presented in Tables 1 and 2 the OH removal is the last or the second last step. As OH removal potentials ranges from -2 V to 0.5 V for all the TMO catalysts, they can be categorized based on the strength of OH binding energy (Table 1 ). Due to high OH removal potential for some of these catalysts, the HER may become a dominant reaction compared to the CO2RR, and this may affect the activity and selectivity of the catalysts. Even if the earlier intermediate steps in CO2RR for producing methane or methanol are feasible at low overpotential, in order to remove OH, the reaction must be carried out at higher overpotentials where HER would be relatively fast.

FIG 9 presents a“selectivity volcano” for formic acid, methanediol, methanol, and methane products. Here we have added all the volcanos (from FIGs 4, 6, 7 and 8) into one volcano-plot for comparison. We conclude that for AGOH > -0.21 eV the CO2RR is more selective towards formic acid, but for AGOH < -0.21 eV, the selectivity is more towards methane, methanol, and methanediol. On the left leg, the PLS towards formic acid and methanediol coincide each other, which means that the formation of those products need almost the same thermodynamic onset potentials. However, the overpotential towards methane and methanol is slightly lower and we predict here that those TMOs (from Hf0 2 to Ru0 2 ) will start forming methanol and methane at smaller onset potentials than needed to form methanediol or formic acid. Cr0 2 and Pt0 2 are on the top of the volcano for methane and methanol (blue line and dashed-blue line). In fact, Pt0 2 is slightly on the right leg of this volcano which means it should be more selective towards formic acid. We have included the explicit values for the onset potentials towards different products on the volcano-plot and the onset potential towards formic acid on Pt0 2 is -0.14 V whereas the onset potentials towards methanol, methane, and methanediol is -0.27 V. Cr0 2 is located exactly at the top of the methanol-methane-methanediol volcanos and the formic acid volcano intercects those other volcanos where Cr0 2 is located. Therefore, the onset potentials towards all these products for Cr0 2 are very similar and all close to -0.3 V (see also Table 1 ).

The main conclusion about these overall volcanos (FIG 9) is that for -0.34 eV < AG O H < -0.21 eV all these three lines (or the PLSs) in this interval closely coincide on one line. Therefore, we cannot predict the selectivity here since the onset potentials are always similar towards all products (note that Cr0 2 is the only candidate within this interval). AG O H < -0.34 eV and AG O H > -0.21 eV are the only selective parts of this overall volcano. The former is somewhat selective towards methanol and methane, and the latter is more selective towards formic acid. As discussed above, Cr0 2 is located on the top of the volcano for methanediol, methanol, and methane and the onset potential towards formic acid is very similar, and therefore it is predicted to form all these four products of C0 2 RR. The important thing about Cr0 2 is that it can adsorb the formic acid as an intermediate on its surface and continue its reduction towards methane, methanol, and methanediol with much smaller applied potential than compared to Ru0 2 , Ti0 2 and Ir0 2 . From these calculations and analysis it seems that in order to find an active and selective catalyst among TMOs towards methane, methanol, and methanediol formation, the binding energy of the OH species on the surface needs to be between -0.5 eV and -0.34 eV, where the OH binding energy is moderate. In addition of being in this interval, the possible candidate needs to have a low activity towards HER as well. Another criteria that needs to be considered here is the CO poisoning. The only pathway which may lead to CO poisoning is through the COOH intermediate. Minimizing the rate towards hydrogen evolution and CO poisoning along with binding OH in a moderate way are the three criteria that should be considered at the same time in order to find a promising candidate. The binding free energy of OCHO, COOH and H are compared in Figure 10 and used in further analysis below. The candidates with weak H and COOH binding free energies will have low tendency to evolve hydrogen and poison the surface with CO. The candidates also need to bind OCHO moderately, between 0 and -0.5 eV which is similar as the interval for the OH binding free energy since OCHO and OH scale linearly, almost one-to-one.

In FIG. 1 1 , we show that the COOH binding free energy and hydrogen binding free energy are correlated linearly. The region (and candidates very close to this region) with weak (positive) hydrogen and weak COOH binding free energy is where one should be looking for the promising candidate(s) because there the rates towards HER and the CO poisoning is lower. Moderate OH binding free energy is another restriction, which needs to be added into the picture. All the design parameters (moderate OH binding, weak hydrogen binding and weak COOH binding) are included in FIG. 12, where the OH binding free energy is plotted as a function of the H binding free energy (since COOH and H are correlated linearly we only include the H binding here). The most promising candidates for high CO 2 RR selectivity and low HER activity should be in the regions denoted by solid horizontal lines. For a candidate to be selective towards methane, methanol, and methanediol, it needs to be located in the lowermost region (-0.5 eV < AG O H < -0.34 eV; black solid lines). For a candidate to be selective towards formic acid, it should be located approximately between -0.21 eV < AG O H < 0 eV (light grey region). Candidates located between -0.21 eV < AG O H < -0.34 eV (grey region) are predicted to evolve all four products. Cr0 2 is the only candidate located in any of those regions and therefore it is promising for selective formation of CO 2 RR products over HER.

In this work, all the analyses are based on the calculated thermodynamics of adsorbed intermediates on the TMO surfaces and the CHE is then used to vary the applied potential implicitly. In order to conclude whether these candidates are truly selective towards a given intermediate, one needs to consider kinetic and transport effects as well, which are beyond the scope of this study. Activation energies can be calculated for each of the proton-electron transfer steps (towards different intermediates and products) by setting up a charged double- layer model including a solid TMO electrode and an aqueous electrolyte solution as has been done for the metal-liquid interface for CO 2 RR (Hussain et al, ACS Catal (submitted)). There, the charge difference in the double layer sets up the applied electric potential explicitly and therefore the proton-electron transfer barriers can be calculated as a function of explicitly varied potential. This approach is necessary in order to reproduce the experimentally observed product distribution as a function of both the metal type and the applied potential. However, it has been shown that the TCM-CHE approach is sufficiently accurate to predict the onset potentials for various reactions on different catalyst’s materials, including CO 2 RR on metal catalysts, both in terms of which product is formed on Cu and when the metal catalyst is varied.

Conclusions

The main goal of this work was to establish trends in CO 2 RR activity and selectivity for production of formic acid, methanediol, methanol, and methane on the surface of pure TMOs. We construct volcano plots through scaling relations of adsorbed intermediates that show selectivity towards methane and methanol when AG O H < -0.34 eV, but selectivity towards formic acid for AG O H > -0.21 eV. We also observe that there is an interval for OH adsorption free energy between -0.34 eV < AGOH < -0.21 eV, which is not selective towards any specific CO2RR product, since the onset potentials towards all the products is predicted to be the same and very low. We found that Cr0 2 , Pt0 2 , and Rh0 2 have smaller onset potentials compared to all other TMOs included in this work, or below -0.3 V. When the hydrogen evolution reaction is taken into account, Cr02 and Rh02 are predicted to be more selective towards formic acid, methane, methanol, and methanediol rather than evolving hydrogen, whereas Pt02 would be more selective towards forming hydrogen gas than the CO2RR products. Experimental works for CO2RR on RUO2, Ir0 2 , and T1O2 have shown that these TMOs are rather selective towards methanol at potentials between -0.5 to -1 V. Our simulation confirms this and the calculated onset potentials for RUO2, Ir0 2 , and T1O2 are -0.80 V, -0.85 V and -0.99 V, respectively, or within these experimental values.

Example 2

Role of coadsorbed water

When transition metal oxides are exposed to an aqueous environment, water molecules can be adsorbed onto the metal oxide surface. These water molecules in turn can affect functional properties of metal oxide surfaces, including their catalytic potential.

To investigate the role of coadsorbed water in the catalytic reduction of CO2, the calculations described above under Example 1 were repeated in the presence of water on the catalyst surface.

To address our system, we have carried out an ab initio molecular dynamic (AIMD) simulation of RUC>2 (1 10)-water. Born Oppenheimer molecular dynamic (MD) simulations and static geometry optimization calculation were done using a plane-wave based pseudopotential formalism with a generalized gradient approximation (GGA) to describe the exchange- correlation effects within BEEF-vdW functional implemented in the periodic DFT package VASP. A plane wave basis set with a cutoff energy of 350 eV was used to expand the valence electron orbitals and the PAW method was used to represent core electrons. The energy minimum structure of water bilayers were determined using 4x4x1 k-points until the energies were converged to within 10 4 eV. In our simulation the slab consists of four atomic layers with four metal atoms and eight oxygen atoms in each layer, and the exposed liquid phase was presented by 22 H2O molecules. The system was subject to periodic boundary conditions in all direction. In our simulation atoms in the bottom two layers were fixed while the atoms in the top two layers along with the water molecules were allowed to reconstruct during MD run. The time step for MD runs is 0.5 fs. Canonical ensemble (NVT) conditions were imposed by a Nose- Hoover thermostat with a target temperature of 300 K. 1 ps of equilibration period was followed by 3~4 ps of production period. The convergence of the vertical energy gap can be monitored by the time accumulative averages.

We performed the simulation of bulk water in contact with the Ru0 2 surface. We observe a specific well-defined geometry in the simulation where a low coverage of water molecules are chemisorbed on the surface but the remaining water molecules have insignifant effect on the surface chemistry. Therefore, in the proceeding calculations, we only include those chemisorbed water molecules to obtain the effect of those on the CO2RR catalysis.

Simulation Results:

1. Formic Acid, Methandiol, Methanol and Methane Pathways and Corresponding Onset Potentials

Table 4. Methanol Possible Pathways

Table 5. Methane Possible Pathways Table 6. Onset potentials towards various products and OH removal potentials.

2-Formic Acid Formation and Theoretical Activity Volcano

The first two protonation steps in CO2RR may lead to the formation of aqueous formic acid or adsorbed HCOOH species on the surface. In the previous example it has been shown that HCOOH(aq) on T1O2 surface should be in a dissociated form (HCOO + H + ). Here, by including water four different types of surfaces has been observed and they are presented in table 7 and corresponding FIG. 34-a, b, c and d. So, PtC>2, RI7O2, CrC>2, MnC>2, PdC>2 are the only catalysts that cannot adsorb the HCOOH intermediate on their surfaces and therefore these catalysts have the potential of producing aqueous formic acid. In our previous work we showed that Cr0 2 has the potential to keep HCOOH on its surface but by including water, this catalyst shows different behavior and clearly desorbs HCOOH from the surface. For these candidates, corresponding onset potentials for HER and CO2RR is shown in Table 6. According to this table hydrogen binding energy for Rh0 2 , Cr0 2 , and Mn0 2 is more positive than OCHO binding free energy and therefore a higher efficiency towards formic acid is expected than towards H2. Table 7. Different behavior of formic acid on different surfaces

In FIG. 35, there is shown a theoretical volcano plot for the formation of formic acid using scaling relations (indicated by lines) in the presence of water. For each transition metal oxide, the limiting potential value is indicated by filled squares.

3-Methanol and Methane Formation and Theoretical Activity Volcano

FIG. 36 shows a theoretical volcano for formation of methane and methanol from scaling relations (lines) in the presence of water. For each of the transition metal oxides, the explicit limiting potential values are shwon by filled squares.

A comparable volcano plot is shown in FIG. 37, which shows formation of formic acid, methane and methanol from scaling relations (shown by lines) in the presence of water. For each of the transition metal oxide, the explicit limiting potential values are indicated by filled squares.

In FIG. 38 there is shown a scaling figure for COOH adsorption free energy vs. hydrogen binding free energy in the presence of water molecules. If COOH is formed as a species on the surface, it can lead to CO formation or CO poisoning. A strong H binding energy will lead to H poisoning and H 2 formation whereas a weak H adsorption would prevent proton adsorption until at more negative potentials. The area that indicates weak COOH and hydrongen binding energies is likely to include promising catalysts for C02RR. A scaling figure for OH binding free energy vs. hydrogen binding free energy in the presence of water is shown in FIG. 39, where OH is chosen as it is the descriptor on the volcano graphs. Comparing hydrogen evolution activity with CO 2 RR activity shows that MnC> 2 , CrC> 2 and RhC> 2 are more selective towards CO 2 RR than HER.

The overall trends of CO 2 RR represented in the volcano diagrams in Figs 35-37 remain similar, with and without water included in the simulations. However, when HER is taken into account, the selectivity towards CO 2 RR products and H 2 formation may change slightly. When water is included, MnC> 2 and RhC> 2 become even more promising than without water, and together with CrC> 2 , those are the most promising catalysts towards efficient CO 2 RR, see Figs 38 and 39.