An apparatus and method for CO.sub.2 reduction using an Au.sub.25 electrode. The Au.sub.25 electrode is comprised of ligand-protected Au.sub.25 having a structure comprising an icosahedral core of 13 atoms surrounded by a shell of six semi-ring structures bonded to the core of 13 atoms, where each semi-ring structure is typically --SR--Au--SR--Au--SR or --SeR--Au--SeR--Au--SeR. The 12 semi-ring gold atoms within the six semi-ring structures are stellated on 12 of the 20 faces of the icosahedron of the Au.sub.13 core, and organic ligand --SR or --SeR groups are bonded to the Au.sub.13 core with sulfur or selenium atoms. The Au.sub.25 electrode and a counter-electrode are in contact with an electrolyte comprising CO.sub.2 and H+, and a potential of at least -0.1 volts is applied from the Au.sub.25 electrode to the counter-electrode.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to the employer-employee relationship of the Government to the inventors as U.S. Department of Energy employees and site-support contractors at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and pursuant to AFOSR Award No. FA9550-11-1-9999 (FA9550-11-1-0147).