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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Active Learning Accelerated Discovery of Stable Iridium Oxide Polymorphs for the Oxygen Evolution Reaction


The discovery of high-performing and stable materials for sustainable energy applications is a pressing goal in catalysis and materials science. Understanding the relationship between a material's structure and functionality is an important step in the process, such that viable polymorphs for a given chemical composition need to be identified. Machine-learning-based surrogate models have the potential to accelerate the search for polymorphs that target specific applications. Herein, we report a readily generalizable active-learning (AL) accelerated algorithm for identification of electrochemically stable iridium oxide polymorphs of IrO2 and IrO3. The search is coupled to a subsequent analysis of the electrochemical stability of the discovered structures for the acidic oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Structural candidates are generated by identifying all 956 structurally unique AB2 and AB3 prototypes in existing materials databases (more than 38000). Next, using an active learning approach, we find 196 IrO2 polymorphs within the thermodynamic amorphous synthesizability limit and reaffirm the global stability of the rutile structure. We find 75 synthesizable IrO3 polymorphs and report a previously unknown FeF3-type structure as the most stable, termed α-IrO3. To test the algorithms performance, we compare to a random search of the candidate space and report at least a 2-fold increase in the rate of discovery. Additionally, the AL approach can acquire the most stable polymorphs of IrO2 and IrO3 with fewer than 30 density functional theory optimizations. Analysis of the structural properties of the discovered polymorphs reveals that octahedral local coordination environments are preferred for nearly all low-energy structures. Subsequent Pourbaix Ir-H2O analysis shows that α-IrO3 is the globally stable solid phase under acidic OER conditions and supersedes the stability of rutile IrO2. Calculation of theoretical OER surface activities reveal ideal weaker binding of the OER intermediates on α-IrO3 than on any other considered iridium oxide. We emphasize that the proposed AL algorithm can be easily generalized to search for any binary metal oxide structure with a defined stoichiometry.

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