Amorphous Molybdenum Sulfide Films as Hydrogen Evolution Catalysts in Water

Molecular hydrogen is a promising candidate to replace fossil fuels as the energy carrier. Hydrogen does not exist in its molecular form on earth and must therefore be generated, starting from hydrogen-rich compounds. Water would be a renewable resource for hydrogen. It can be split into oxygen and hydrogen. Water splitting, however, needs electrical energy. If this energy is produced from renewable resources, such as solar or wind power, water splitting would be a sustainable and green process. One key step in water splitting is the reduction of protons to form hydrogen. To achieve a high efficiency in this reaction, catalysts are required. This dissertation is devoted to the development of hydrogen evolution catalysts that are made of earth-abundant and inexpensive materials. First, transition metal complexes of tetrathiotungstate and tetrathiomolybdate were studied as potential homogeneous catalysts for hydrogen evolution in organic or aqueous solutions (chapter 1). The redox activity of these complexes was investigated by cyclic voltammetry in the absence and presence of an acid in organic solutions. The first reduction peak of (Pr4N)2[Ni(MoS4)2] became more intense and was shifted to less negative potentials upon addition of an acid, e.g. p-cyanoanilinium tetrafluoroborate. This was considered as a sign for catalytic proton reduction. Electrolysis of a solution containing (Pr4N)2[Ni(MoS4)2] and an acid produced hydrogen. However, the complex turned out to be a precursor of the real catalytically active species, which was deposited on the working electrode’s surface during the electrochemical experiment. Consecutive cyclic voltammetric scans were found to be a good method to deposit the catalytically active film in a controllable manner from an aqueous solution of (Pr4N)2[Ni(MoS4)2]. Furthermore, a catalytically active film could be deposited from a solution of MoS42-, i.e. in the absence of Ni2+. Chapter 2 describes the investigation and characterization of films made using MoS42- as the precursor. The films consist of amorphous molybdenum sulfide. They are efficient hydrogen evolution catalysts in water. The films were characterized by XPS and electron microscopy. Whereas the pre-catalysts could be MoS3 or MoS2, the active form of the catalysts was identified as amorphous MoSx, with x close to 2. Significant geometric current densities were achieved at low overpotentials (e.g., ca. 15 mA/cm2 at η = 200 mV) using these catalysts. The catalysis was compatible with a wide range of pH values. The current efficiency for hydrogen production was quantitative. A Tafel slope of 39 mV/dec was observed, suggesting a rate-determining Heyrovsky step. The turnover frequency per active site was estimated.

Hu, Xile
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis5439-9

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2012-07-23, last modified 2020-03-10

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