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Transition metal sulfide hydrogen evolution catalysts for hydrobromic acid electrolysis.

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Mixed metal sulfides containing combinations of W, Fe, Mo, Ni, and Ru were synthesized and screened for activity and stability for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) in aqueous hydrobromic acid (HBr). Co- and Ni-substituted RuS(2) were identified as potentially active HER electrocatalysts by high-throughput screening (HTS), and the specific compositions Co(0.4)Ru(0.6)S(2) and Ni(0.6)Ru(0.4)S(2) were identified by optimization. Hydrogen evolution activity of Co(0.4)Ru(0.6)S(2) in HBr is greater than RuS(2) or CoS(2) and comparable to Pt and commercial Rh(x)S(y). Structural and morphological characterizations of the Co-substituted RuS(2) suggest that the nanoparticulate solids are a homogeneous solid solution with a pyrite crystal structure. No phase separation is detected for Co substitutions below 30% by X-ray diffraction. In 0.5 M HBr electrolyte, the Co-Ru electrode material synthesized with 30% Co rapidly lost approximately 34% of the initial loading of Co; thereafter, it was observed to exhibit stable activity for HER with no further loss of Co. Density functional theory calculations indicate that the S(2)(2-) sites are the most important for HER and the presence of Co influences the S(2)(2-) sites such that the hydrogen binding energy at sufficiently high hydrogen coverage is decreased compared to ruthenium sulfide. Although showing high HER activity in a flow cell, the reverse reaction of hydrogen oxidation is slow on the RuS(2) catalysts tested when compared to platinum and rhodium sulfide, leaving rhodium sulfide as the only suitable tested material for a regenerative HBr cell due its stability compared to platinum.

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