Oxidatively Electrodeposited Thin-Film Transition Metal (Oxy)hydroxides as Oxygen Evolution Catalysts
The electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen is a simple and attractive approach to store renewable energies in the form of chemical fuels. The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is a complex four-electron process that constitutes the most energy-inefficient step in water electrolysis. Here we describe a novel electrochemical method for the deposition of a family of thin-film transition metal (oxy)hydroxides as OER catalysts. The thin films have nanodomains of crystallinity with lattice spacing similar to those of double-layered hydroxides. The loadings of these thin-film catalysts were accurately determined with a resolution of below 1 mu g cm(-2) using an electrochemical quartz microcrystal balance. The loading-activity relations for various catalysts were established using voltammetry and impedance spectroscopy. The thin-film catalysts have up to four types of loading-activity dependence due to film nucleation and growth as well as the resistance of the films. A zone of intrinsic activity has been identified for all of the catalysts where the mass-averaged activity remains constant while the loading is increased. According to their intrinsic activities, the metal oxides can be classified into three categories: NiOx, MnOx, and FeOx belong to category I, which is the least active; CoOx and CoNiOx belong to category II, which has medium activity; and FeNiOx, CoFeOx, and CoFeNiOx belong to category III, which is the most active. The high turnover frequencies of CoFeOx and CoFeNiOx at low overpotentials and the simple deposition method allow the fabrication of high-performance anode electrodes coated with these catalysts. In 1 M KOH and with the most active electrode, overpotentials as low as 240 and 270 mV are required to reach 10 and 100 mA cm(-2), respectively.