The understanding and rational design of heterogeneous catalysts for complex reactions, such as CO2 reduction, requires knowledge of elementary steps and chemical species prevalent on the catalyst surface under operating conditions. Using in situ nanoscale surface-enhanced Raman scattering, we probe the surface of a Ag nanoparticle during plasmon-excitation-driven CO2 reduction in water. Enabled by the high spatiotemporal resolution and surface sensitivity of our method, we detect a rich array of C1–C4 species formed on the photocatalytically active surface. The abundance of multi-carbon compounds, such as butanol, suggests the favorability of kinetically challenging C–C coupling on the photoexcited Ag surface. Another advance of this work is the use of isotope labeling in nanoscale probing, which allows confirmation that detected species are the intermediates and products of the catalytic reaction rather than spurious contaminants. The surface chemical knowledge made accessible by our approach will inform the modeling and engineering of catalysts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)