We have carried out a periodic Kohn-Sham density functional theory investigation of the pathways by which carbon-carbon bonds could be formed during the electrochemical reduction of CO2 on Cu(100) using a model that includes the effects of the electrochemical potential, solvent, and electrolyte. The electrochemical potential was set by relating the applied potential to the Fermi energy and then calculating the number of electrons required by the simulation cell for that specific Fermi energy. The solvent was included as a continuum dielectric, and the electrolyte was described using a linearized Poisson-Boltzmann model. The calculated potential of zero charge for a variety of surfaces agrees with experiment to within a mean average error of 0.09 V, thereby validating the assumptions of the model. Analysis of the mechanism for C-C bond formation revealed that at low-applied potential, C-C bond formation occurs through a CO dimer. However, at high applied potentials, a large activation barrier blocks this pathway; therefore, C-C bond formation occurs through reaction of adsorbed CHO and CO. Rate parameters determined from our calculations were used to simulate the kinetics of ethene formation during the electrochemical reduction of CO over a Cu(100) surface. An excellent match was observed between previously reported measurements of the partial current for ethene formation as a function of applied voltage and the variation in the partial current for C-C bond formation predicted by our microkinetic model. The electrochemical model reported here is simple, fairly easy to implement, and involves only a small increase in computational cost over calculations neglecting the effects of the electrolyte and the applied field. Therefore, it can be used to study the effects of applied potential and electrolyte composition on the energetics of surface reactions for a wide variety of electrochemical reactions.
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© 2016 American Chemical Society.