Combining theory and experiment in electrocatalysis: Insights into materials design

Z.W. Seh, Jakob Kibsgaard, Colin F. Dickens, Ib Chorkendorff, Jens K. Nørskov, Thomas F. Jaramillo
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With a rising global population, increasing energy demands, and impending climate change, major concerns have been raised over the security of our energy future. Developing sustainable, fossil-free pathways to produce fuels and chemicals of global importance could play a major role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions while providing the feedstocks needed to make the products we use on a daily basis. One prospective goal is to develop electrochemical conversion processes that can convert molecules in the atmosphere (e.g., water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen) into higher-value products (e.g., hydrogen, hydrocarbons, oxygenates, and ammonia) by coupling to renewable energy. Electrocatalysts play a key role in these energy conversion technologies because they increase the rate, efficiency, and selectivity of the chemical transformations involved. Today’s electrocatalysts, however, are inadequate. The grand challenge is to develop advanced electrocatalysts with the enhanced performance needed to enable widespread penetration of clean energy technologies.

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