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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding the Oxygen Evolution Reaction Mechanism on CoOxusing Operando Ambient-Pressure X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy

  • Author(s): Favaro, M
  • Yang, J
  • Nappini, S
  • Magnano, E
  • Toma, FM
  • Crumlin, EJ
  • Yano, J
  • Sharp, ID
  • et al.

© 2017 American Chemical Society. Photoelectrochemical water splitting is a promising approach for renewable production of hydrogen from solar energy and requires interfacing advanced water-splitting catalysts with semiconductors. Understanding the mechanism of function of such electrocatalysts at the atomic scale and under realistic working conditions is a challenging, yet important, task for advancing efficient and stable function. This is particularly true for the case of oxygen evolution catalysts and, here, we study a highly active Co3O4/Co(OH)2biphasic electrocatalyst on Si by means of operando ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy performed at the solid/liquid electrified interface. Spectral simulation and multiplet fitting reveal that the catalyst undergoes chemical-structural transformations as a function of the applied anodic potential, with complete conversion of the Co(OH)2and partial conversion of the spinel Co3O4phases to CoO(OH) under precatalytic electrochemical conditions. Furthermore, we observe new spectral features in both Co 2p and O 1s core-level regions to emerge under oxygen evolution reaction conditions on CoO(OH). The operando photoelectron spectra support assignment of these newly observed features to highly active Co4+centers under catalytic conditions. Comparison of these results to those from a pure phase spinel Co3O4catalyst supports this interpretation and reveals that the presence of Co(OH)2enhances catalytic activity by promoting transformations to CoO(OH). The direct investigation of electrified interfaces presented in this work can be extended to different materials under realistic catalytic conditions, thereby providing a powerful tool for mechanism discovery and an enabling capability for catalyst design.

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