[Nature Communications] Highly efficient ethylene production via electrocatalytic hydrogenation of acetylene under mild conditions
Abstract: Renewable energy-based electrocatalytic hydrogenation of acetylene to ethylene (E-HAE) under mild conditions is an attractive substitution to the conventional energy-intensive industrial process, but is challenging due to its low Faradaic efficiency caused by competitive hydrogen evolution reaction. Herein, we report a highly efficient and selective E-HAE process at room temperature and ambient pressure over the Cu catalyst. A high Faradaic efficiency of 83.2% for ethylene with a current density of 29 mA cm−2 is reached at −0.6 V vs. the reversible hydrogen electrode. In-situ spectroscopic characterizations combined with first-principles calculations reveal that electron transfer from the Cu surface to adsorbed acetylene induces preferential adsorption and hydrogenation of the acetylene over hydrogen formation, thus enabling a highly selective E-HAE process through the electron-coupled proton transfer mechanism. This work presents a feasible route for high-efficiency ethylene production from E-HAE.