Electrocatalytic CO2 reduction with a homogeneous catalyst in ionic liquid: High catalytic activity at low overpotential

David C. Grills, Yasuo Matsubara, Yutaka Kuwahara, Suzanne R. Golisz, Daniel A. Kurtz, Barbara A. Mello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


We describe a new strategy for enhancing the efficiency of electrocatalytic CO2 reduction with a homogeneous catalyst, using a room-temperature ionic liquid as both the solvent and electrolyte. The electrochemical behavior of fac-ReCl(2,2'-bipyridine)(CO)3 in neat 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium tetracyanoborate ([emim][TCB]) was compared with that in acetonitrile containing 0.1 M [Bu4N][PF6]. Two separate one-electron reductions occur in acetonitrile (-1.74 and -2.11 V vs Fc+/0), with a modest catalytic current appearing at the second reduction wave under CO 2. However, in [emim][TCB], a two-electron reduction wave appears at -1.66 V, resulting in a ∼0.45 V lower overpotential for catalytic reduction of CO2 to CO. Furthermore, the apparent CO2 reduction rate constant, kapp, in [emim][TCB] exceeds that in acetonitrile by over one order of magnitude (kapp = 4000 vs 100 M-1 s -1) at 25 ± 3 °C. Supported by time-resolved infrared measurements, a mechanism is proposed in which an interaction between [emim]+ and the two-electron reduced catalyst results in rapid dissociation of chloride and a decrease in the activation energy for CO 2 reduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2033-2038
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 5 2014


  • EC(cat) mechanism
  • carbon dioxide reduction
  • electrochemistry
  • homogeneous catalyst
  • ionic liquid
  • time-resolved infrared spectroscopy
  • ultramicroelectrode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

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