Graphene Carbocatalysts for the Electrocatalytic Reduction of CO2 to Fuels
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Anthropogenic CO2 emissions have emerged as a grave threat to mankind and are widely recognized as the primary cause of global warming. In a sobering milestone, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 recently surpassed 400 pm, an increase of over 120 ppm since pre-industrial times. Just in the 21st century, 2001 to 2016 rank amongst the seventeen warmest years according to the 137-year record from National Centers for Environmental Information. Against this backdrop of climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, and industrial growth in emerging economies has led to a massive increase of worldwide energy consumption, which has rendered curbing of CO2 emissions a formidable challenge and has raised the specter of rapid depletion of fossil-fuel-based energy resources. In this context of increasing CO2 emissions and diminishing petroleum reserves, the development of clean, highly efficient, and sustainable energy sources has assumed tremendous importance. The present proposal aims to design and develop novel metal-free earth-abundant graphene-based carbocatalysts for the highly efficient electrochemical reduction of CO2 to various fuel molecules as a cost-effective, massively scalable, and sustainable solution for the production of fuels by CO2 fixation. As such, the technology developed here will simultaneously take aim at two of the defining challenges of our times: curbing global CO2 emissions and diminishing fossil-fuel consumption. CO2 is a cheap, earth-abundant, and renewable C1 source. However, due to its chemical stability, its activation and subsequent conversion to useful fuels and precursors poses a major challenge. The direct electrochemical reduction of CO2 (CO2RR) captured from power plants to fuels such as carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), methanol (CH3OH), and formic acid (HCOOH) represents a promising route to carbon-neutral clean energy production. Unlike, direct hydrogenation of CO2, which usually requires very high temperature and pressures, electrocatalytic reduction of CO2 is a viable alternative for industrial applications if it can be performed at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. Despite the large number of studies on metal electrodes, none of these materials exhibit desired levels of catalytic activity and selectivity for CO2RR, and indeed the hydrogen evolution (HER) often outcompetes CO2RR on these catalysts..........