Are Amines the Holy Grail for Facilitating CO2 Reduction?

Jakobsen, J. B., Rønne, M. H., Daasbjerg, K. & Skrydstrup, T.

The selective and efficient reduction of carbon dioxide represents a key solution to producing non-fossil-fuel-based feedstocks for the chemical industry, while alleviating the increasing atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas. A variety of catalytic methods for the CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) have been developed, including hydrogenations and electrochemical or photochemical reductions. For many of the most significant breakthroughs reported in the last decade, we realized that amines or closely related functional groups play a critical role for such transformations, and in several cases, are directly associated with the catalyst as a pendant group. Amines play multiple roles, such as CO2 trapping agents, proton shuttles, electron donors, or facilitators of CO2reductions through formamide derivatives. In this Viewpoint, we compile some of these recent findings, and discuss their significance in a broader context in an attempt to provide guidelines for the design of new catalysts with enhanced activity and selectivity.