Insight into CO activation over Cu(100) under electrochemical conditions

The reduction of CO2 on copper electrodes has attracted great attentions in the last decades, since it provides a sustainable approach for energy restore. During the CO2 reduction process, the electron transfer to COads is experimentally suggested to be the crucial step. In this work, we examine two possible pathways in CO activation, i.e. to generate COHads and CHOads, respectively, by performing the state-of-the-art constrained ab initio molecular dynamics simulations on the charged Cu(100) electrode under aqueous conditions, which is close to the realistic electrochemical condition. The free energy profile in the formation of COHads via the coupled proton and electron transfer is plotted. Furthermore, by Bader charge analyses, a linear relationship between C-O bond distance and the negative charge in CO fragment is unveiled. The formation of CHOads is identified to be a surface catalytic reaction, which requires the adsorption of H atom on the surface first. By comparing these two pathways, we demonstrate that kinetically the formation of COHads is more favored than that of CHOads, while CHOads is thermodynamically more stable. This work reveals that CO activation via COHads intermediate is an important pathway in electrocatalysis, which could provide some insights into CO2 electroreduction over Cu electrodes.