Potential-sensing electrochemical atomic force microscopy for in operando analysis of water-splitting catalysts and interfaces

Heterogeneous electrochemical phenomena, such as (photo)electrochemical water splitting to generate hydrogen using semiconductors and/or electrocatalysts, are driven by the accumulated charge carriers and thus the interfacial electrochemical potential gradients that promote charge transfer. However, measurements of the “surface” electrochemical potential during operation are not generally possible using conventional electrochemical techniques, which measure/control the potential of a conducting electrode substrate. Here we show that the nanoscale conducting tip of an atomic force microscope cantilever can sense the surface electrochemical potential of electrocatalysts in operando. To demonstrate utility, we measure the potential-dependent and thickness-dependent electronic properties of cobalt (oxy)hydroxide phosphate (CoPi). We then show that CoPi, when deposited on illuminated haematite (α-Fe2O3) photoelectrodes, acts as both a hole collector and an oxygen evolution catalyst. We demonstrate the versatility of the technique by comparing surface potentials of CoPi-decorated planar and mesoporous haematite and discuss viability for broader application in the study of electrochemical phenomena.

Published in:
Nature Energy, 3, 46-52

 Record created 2018-01-08, last modified 2020-07-29

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