February 2014 — Present
Advisor: Anders Nilsson
A novel, nanostructured copper surface was discovered to promote significant ethylene production when used as a carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction catalyst. The nanostructured copper is easily formed in situ during the CO2 reduction reaction, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) shows the surface to be dominated by cubic structures. Using online electrochemical mass spectrometry (OLEMS), the onset potentials and relative ratios of the volatile products (ethylene and methane) were measured for several different copper surfaces and single crystals, relating the cubic shape of the copper surface to the greatly enhanced ethylene selectivity. The ability of the cubic nanostructure to so strongly favor multi-carbon product formation from CO2 reduction, and in particular ethylene over methane, is unique to this surface and is an important step towards developing a catalyst that has exclusive selectivity for multi-carbon products.