Synthesis and Application of Transition Metal Oxides as Oxygen Evolution Catalysts

Nowadays, mankind is facing an important energy challenge. Depletion in fossil fuels reserves and increasing energy demand, coupled with the problematic greenhouse effect induced by massive anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, are driving forces for the development of renewable and carbon-free energy technologies. Hydrogen gas is considered as the energy carrier of the future and is expected to replace fossil fuels in order to create a Hydrogen Economy. Hydrogen is viable for decarbonization of our society only if it is produced from sustainable and renewable energies. Water splitting, the redox reaction producing hydrogen and oxygen gas by reducing and oxidizing water, respectively, is a promising technique to produce clean hydrogen. However, the kinetics of the oxidative half-reaction, namely the oxygen evolution reaction (OER), are slow and catalysts are required in order to increase the global efficiency of water splitting. Moreover, in order to perform water splitting at large scale, catalysts based on Earth-abundant elements should be developed. This thesis focuses on the development of transition metal oxides catalysts, by different synthesis techniques, for electrochemical and photoelectrochemical oxygen evolution. Chapter 2 focuses on the atomic layer deposition (ALD) of different cobalt-based metal oxides and the development of procedures to fabricate bi- and trimetallic oxides catalysts. Cobalt vanadium oxide (CoVOx), cobalt iron oxide (CoFeOx) as well as cobalt vanadium iron oxide (CoVFeOx) are deposited by ALD and evaluated for OER. The ALD deposition method allowed us to apply these material on high-surface area nickel foam substrates. Among them, CoFeOx shows the highest catalytic activity for water oxidation and can compete with state-of-the art electrocatalysts for OER in alkaline solution. In Chapter 3, we focused on developing a photoelectrodeposition method to deposit CoFeOx on nanocauliflower hematite photoanodes. This photoelectrodeposition method allowed the deposition of an ultrathin, amorphous and optically transparent CoFeOx layer that induced a large cathodic shift of the photocurrent onset potential of hematite and a high enhancement of the photocurrent at 1.0 V vs RHE. Additionally, the reason of the improvement of the onset potential was explored in detail in order to differentiate between possible activity enhancement effects such as an increase of charge transfer kinetics, a reduction of surface recombination, a modification of the flat band potential or an increase of the photovoltage. We concluded that CoFeOx improved the OER efficiency of nanocauliflower hematite photoanodes by purely enhancing the kinetics of water oxidation. Chapter 4 details the development of a hydrothermal route to fabricate CoVOx. On the basis of a volcano plot that correlates the OER activity to the M-OH bond strength of metal oxides, CoVOx was predicted to be a highly active electrocatalyst that could compete with the most active OER electrocatalysts in alkaline solution. After characterization, this hydrothermally synthesized cobalt vanadium oxide was seen to be amorphous and provided high catalytic activity towards OER. This chapter, in addition to increasing the library of OER electrocatalysts, demonstrates the usefulness of M-OH bond strength as a simple descriptor for experimental development of OER catalysts.

Hu, Xile
Lausanne, EPFL

 Record created 2019-08-14, last modified 2019-08-22

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