We report new insights into the electrochemical reduction of CO2 on a metallic copper surface, enabled by the development of an experimental methodology with unprecedented sensitivity for the identification and quantification of CO2 electroreduction products. This involves a custom electrochemical cell designed to maximize product concentrations coupled to gas chromatography and nuclear magnetic resonance for the identification and quantification of gas and liquid products, respectively. We studied copper across a range of potentials and observed a total of 16 different CO2 reduction products, five of which are reported here for the first time, thus providing the most complete view of the reaction chemistry reported to date. Taking into account the chemical identities of the wide range of C1–C3 products generated and the potential-dependence of their turnover frequencies, mechanistic information is deduced. We discuss a scheme for the formation of multicarbon products involving enol-like surface intermediates as a possible pathway, accounting for the observed selectivity for eleven distinct C2+ oxygenated products including aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, and carboxylic acids.
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