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Title: Why surface hydrophobicity promotes CO 2 electroreduction: a case study of hydrophobic polymer N -heterocyclic carbenes
We report the use of polymer N -heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) to control the microenvironment surrounding metal nanocatalysts, thereby enhancing their catalytic performance in CO 2 electroreduction. Three polymer NHC ligands were designed with different hydrophobicity: hydrophilic poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO–NHC), hydrophobic polystyrene (PS–NHC), and amphiphilic block copolymer (BCP) (PEO- b -PS–NHC). All three polymer NHCs exhibited enhanced reactivity of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) during CO 2 electroreduction by suppressing proton reduction. Notably, the incorporation of hydrophobic PS segments in both PS–NHC and PEO- b -PS–NHC led to a twofold increase in the partial current density for CO formation, as compared to the hydrophilic PEO–NHC. While polymer ligands did not hinder ion diffusion, their hydrophobicity altered the localized hydrogen bonding structures of water. This was confirmed experimentally and theoretically through attenuated total reflectance surface-enhanced infrared absorption spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulation, demonstrating improved CO 2 diffusion and subsequent reduction in the presence of hydrophobic polymers. Furthermore, NHCs exhibited reasonable stability under reductive conditions, preserving the structural integrity of AuNPs, unlike thiol-ended polymers. The combination of NHC binding motifs with hydrophobic polymers provides valuable insights into controlling the microenvironment of metal nanocatalysts, offering a bioinspired strategy for the design of artificial metalloenzymes.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2144360 2102245 2102290
NSF-PAR ID:
10453126
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Chemical Science
ISSN:
2041-6520
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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