Published September 17, 2018
UB CBE Associate Professor Gang Wu has received an award from the National Science Foundation for the project "Designing Nitrogen Coordinated Single Atomic Metal Electrocatalysts for Selective CO₂ Reduction to CO". This project aims to design cost-effective electrocatalysts for energy sustainability technologies.
Advancing sustainable energy technology that can convert CO2 into fuels and value-added chemicals via cost-effective electrocatalysis is in the best interest of science and society. At present, precious metals (e.g., Au, Ag, and Pd) exhibit the best catalytic activity for the electrochemical reduction reaction of CO2 (CO2RR). However, their high cost hampers the implementation. Development of alternative catalysts based on non-precious metals is therefore highly demanded.
In recent years, N coordinated single atomic metal sites embedded in carbon (denoted as M-N-C, M: Fe, Co, or Ni) have been emerging capable of catalyzing CO2 reduction to CO with a reasonable activity and selectivity. Despite much progress, there still exists a distinct catalytic performance difference between the M-N-C catalysts and the state-of-the-art precious metal catalysts. More importantly, knowledge about how the activity, selectivity, and durability of M-N-C electrocatalysts for CO2RR are dependent on their chemical composition, structure, morphology, and synthetic chemistry is severely lacking, and that significantly hinders advancements in this new type of promising catalysts.
The project "Designing Nitrogen Coordinated Single Atomic Metal Electrocatalysts for Selective CO2 Reduction to CO" aims to address these grand challenges. Dr. Wu and his collaborative research teams propose the uses of computational and experimental techniques to examine the correlation of synthesis, structure, and catalytic properties and further provide fundamental understanding for a rational design of advanced M-N-C catalysts. This project is expected to predict and validate some new strategies (local straining, tailoring M-N ligands, doping, and tuning local carbon structure) to enhance the activity and selectivity of M-N-C for CO2RR.