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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Operando Spectroscopic Analysis of an Amorphous Cobalt Sulfide Hydrogen Evolution Electrocatalyst

  • Author(s): Kornienko, N
  • Resasco, J
  • Becknell, N
  • Jiang, CM
  • Liu, YS
  • Nie, K
  • Sun, X
  • Guo, J
  • Leone, SR
  • Yang, P
  • et al.

© 2015 American Chemical Society. The generation of chemical fuel in the form of molecular H2 via the electrolysis of water is regarded to be a promising approach to convert incident solar power into an energy storage medium. Highly efficient and cost-effective catalysts are required to make such an approach practical on a large scale. Recently, a number of amorphous hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) catalysts have emerged that show promise in terms of scalability and reactivity, yet remain poorly understood. In this work, we utilize Raman spectroscopy and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) as a tool to elucidate the structure and function of an amorphous cobalt sulfide (CoSx) catalyst. Ex situ measurements reveal that the as-deposited CoSx catalyst is composed of small clusters in which the cobalt is surrounded by both sulfur and oxygen. Operando experiments, performed while the CoSx is catalyzing the HER, yield a molecular model in which cobalt is in an octahedral CoS2-like state where the cobalt center is predominantly surrounded by a first shell of sulfur atoms, which, in turn, are preferentially exposed to electrolyte relative to bulk CoS2. We surmise that these CoS2-like clusters form under cathodic polarization and expose a high density of catalytically active sulfur sites for the HER.

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