Renewable electricity is often produced when it is not needed. If the surplus could be harnessed to drive the conversion of CO2 and water into liquid fuel, the energy would not go to waste and a use would be found for CO2 produced by carbon capture. All this requires efficient electrocatalysts that reduce CO2 not only to CO, but also further into fuel chemicals. Copper does this but with low efficiency and selectivity. Christina Li et al. now show that the intrinsic catalytic properties of copper can be improved by producing it from its oxide as interconnected nanocrystallites. Their enhanced catalyst generates primarily ethanol, demonstrating that a two-step conversion of CO2 to liquid fuel powered by renewable electricity might be possible.
- Catalysis at the boundaries (News & Views p460, doi: 10.1038/nature13226)
- Electroreduction of carbon monoxide to liquid fuel on oxide-derived nanocrystalline copper (Letter p504, doi: 10.1038/nature13249)
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