ICN2 Publications

2023

  • Unveiling the role of counter-anions in amorphous transition metal-based oxygen evolution electrocatalysts

    Wang X., Han X., Du R., Liang Z., Zuo Y., Guardia P., Li J., Llorca J., Arbiol J., Zheng R., Cabot A. Applied Catalysis B: Environmental; 320 (121988) 2023. 10.1016/j.apcatb.2022.121988.

    Advanced Electron Nanoscopy

    At the initial stage of the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) most electrocatalysts undergo structural and chemical surface reconstruction. While this reconstruction strongly influences their performance, it is frequently overlooked. Herein, we analyze the role of the oxidized anions, which is particularly neglected in most previous works. We introduce a range of different anionic groups (Cl-, CH3COO-, NO3-, SO42-) on the surface of an amorphous ZnCoxNiyOz catalyst by a facile proton etching and ion exchange method from a ZIF-8 self-sacrificial template. The structural and chemical properties of the obtained set of materials are thoroughly analysed and correlated with their electrocatalytic performance to study the effect of surface anionic groups, phase transition, metal leaching and defect generation on OER activity. Exploiting the control possibilities provided by the synthesis method here described and employing the uncovered property-performance correlations, the electrocatalyst is optimized. As a result, we produce ZnCo1.25Ni0.73Ox-SO4 catalysts with outstanding OER performances, including a low overpotential of 252 mV at 10 mA cm−2 with a small Tafel slope of 41.6 mV dec−1. Furthermore, this catalyst exhibits remarkable stability with negligible overpotential variation for 100 h. The excellent catalytic properties are rationalized using density functional theory calculations, showing that the surface-adsorbed anions, particularly SO42−, can stabilize the OOH* intermediate, thus enhancing the OER activity. This work offers new insight into the roles of metal leaching and surface-adsorbed anions in the OER progress and facilitates the rational design of highly-efficient electrocatalysts for OER. © 2022 Elsevier B.V.