skip to main content

Title: Determining the hydronium pKα at platinum surfaces and the effect on pH-dependent hydrogen evolution reaction kinetics
Electrocatalytic hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) is critical for green hydrogen generation and exhibits distinct pH-dependent kinetics that have been elusive to understand. A molecular-level understanding of the electrochemical interfaces is essential for developing more efficient electrochemical processes. Here we exploit an exclusively surface-specific electrical transport spectroscopy (ETS) approach to probe the Pt-surface water protonation status and experimentally determine the surface hydronium pK a = 4.3. Quantum mechanics (QM) and reactive dynamics using a reactive force field (ReaxFF) molecular dynamics (RMD) calculations confirm the enrichment of hydroniums (H 3 O + * ) near Pt surface and predict a surface hydronium pK a of 2.5 to 4.4, corroborating the experimental results. Importantly, the observed Pt-surface hydronium pK a correlates well with the pH-dependent HER kinetics, with the protonated surface state at lower pH favoring fast Tafel kinetics with a Tafel slope of 30 mV per decade and the deprotonated surface state at higher pH following Volmer-step limited kinetics with a much higher Tafel slope of 120 mV per decade, offering a robust and precise interpretation of the pH-dependent HER kinetics. These insights may help design improved electrocatalysts for renewable energy conversion.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    The alkaline hydrogen evolution reaction (A-HER) holds great promise for clean hydrogen fuel generation but its practical utilization is severely hindered by the sluggish kinetics for water dissociation in alkaline solutions. Traditional ways to improve the electrochemical kinetics for A-HER catalysts have been focusing on surface modification, which still can not meet the demanding requirements for practical water electrolysis because of catalyst surface deactivation. Herein, we report an interior modification strategy to significantly boost the A-HER performance. Specifically, a trace amount of Pt was doped in the interior Co 2 P (Pt–Co 2 P) to introduce a stronger dopant–host interaction than that of the surface-modified catalyst. Consequently, the local chemical state and electronic structure of the catalysts were adjusted to improve the electron mobility and reduce the energy barriers for hydrogen adsorption and H–H bond formation. As a proof-of-concept, the interior-modified Pt–Co 2 P shows a reduced onset potential at near-zero volts for the A-HER, low overpotentials of 2 mV and 58 mV to achieve 10 and 100 mA cm −2 , and excellent durability for long-term utilization. The interior-modified Pt–Co 2 P delivers superior A-HER performance to Pt/C and other state-of-the-art electrocatalysts. This work will open a new avenue for A-HER catalyst design. 
    more » « less
  2. Electrocatalytic water splitting presents an exciting opportunity to produce environmentally benign hydrogen fuel to power human activities. Earth abundant Ni5P4 has emerged as an efficient catalyst for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and its activity can be enhanced by admixing synergistic metals to modify the surface affinity and consequently kinetics of HER. Computational studies suggest that the HER activity of Ni5P4 can be improved by Zn doping, causing a chemical pressure-like effect on Ni3 hollow sites. Herein, we report a facile colloidal route to produce Ni5-xZnxP4 nanocrystals (NCs) with control over structure, morphology, and composition and investigate their composition-dependent HER activity in alkaline solutions. Ni5-xZnxP4 NCs retain the hexagonal structure and solid spherical morphology of binary Ni5P4 NCs with a notable size increase from 9.2-28.5 nm for x = 0.00-1.27 compositions. Elemental maps affirm the homogeneous ternary alloy formation with no evidence of Zn segregation. Surface analysis of Ni5-xZnxP4 NCs indicates significant modulation of the surface polarization upon Zn incorporation resulting in a decrease in Niδ+ and an increase in Pδ- charge. Although all compositions followed a Volmer-Heyrovsky HER mechanism, the modulated surface polarization enhances the reaction kinetics producing lower Tafel slopes for Ni5-xZnxP4 NCs (82.5-101.9 mV/dec for x = 0.10-0.84) compared to binary Ni5P4 NCs (109.9 mV/dec). Ni5-xZnxP4 NCs showed higher HER activity with overpotentials of 131.6-193.8 mV for x = 0.02-0.84 in comparison to Ni5P4 NCs (218.1 mV) at a current density of -10 mA/cm2. Alloying with Zn increases the material’s stability with only a ~10% increase in overpotential for Ni4.49Zn0.51P4 NCs at -50 mA/cm2, whereas a ~33% increase was observed for Ni5P4 NCs. At current densities above -40 mA/cm2, bimetallic NCs with x = 0.10, 0.29, and 0.51 compositions outperformed the benchmark Pt/C catalyst, suggesting that hexagonal alloyed Ni5-xZnxP4 NCs are excellent candidates for practical applications that necessitate lower HER overpotentials at higher current densities. 
    more » « less
  3. The efficient production of green hydrogen via electrochemical water splitting is important for improving the sustainability and enabling the electrification of the chemical industry. One of the major goals of water electrolysis is to utilize non-precious metal catalysts, which can be accomplished with alkaline electrolyzer technologies. However, there is a continuing need for designing catalysts that can operate in alkaline environments with high efficiencies under high current densities. Here we describe a simple, aqueous-based synthesis method to incorporate sulfur into NiFe-based electrocatalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Sulfur incorporation was able to reduce the overpotential for the OER from ca. 350 mV on a NiFe catalyst to ca. 290 mV on the NiFeS catalyst at 100 mA cm −2 on a flat supporting electrode. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy data showed a small decrease in the charge transfer resistance of the NiFeS catalysts, showing that sulfur incorporation may improve the electronic conductivity. Surface-interrogation scanning electrochemical microscopy (SI-SECM) studies combined with Tafel slope analysis suggested that the NiFeS catalyst was able to have vacant surface sites available under OER conditions and was able to maintain a Tafel slope of 39 mV dec −1 . This is in contrast to the NiFe catalyst, for which the SI-SECM studies showed a saturated surface under OER conditions with the Tafel slope transitioning from 39 mV dec −1 to 118 mV dec −1 . The low Tafel slope enabled the NiFeS catalyst to maintain low overpotentials under high current densities, which we attribute to the ability of the NiFeS catalyst to maintain vacant sites during the OER. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract Two-dimensional (2D) molybdenum disulfide (MoS 2 ) has been recognized as a potential substitution of platinum (Pt) for electrochemical hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). However, the broad adoption of MoS 2 is hindered by its limited number of active sites and low inherent electrical conductivity. In this work, we employed a one-step solvothermal synthesis technique to construct a ternary hybrid structure consisting of dual-phase MoS 2, titanium carbide (Ti 3 C 2 ) MXene, and carbon nanotubes (CNTs), and demonstrated synergistic effects for active site exposure, surface area enlargement, and electrical conductivity improvement of the catalyst. The dual-phase MoS 2 (DP-MoS 2 ) is directly formed on the MXene with CNTs acting as crosslinks between 2D islands. The existence of edge-enriched metallic phase MoS 2 , the conductive backbone of MXene along with the crosslink function of CNTs clearly improves the overall HER performance of the ternary nanocomposite. Moreover, the integration of MoS 2 with MXene not only increases the interlayer distance of the 2D layers but also partially suppresses the MXene oxidation and the 2D layer restacking, leading to good catalytic stability. As a result, an overpotential of 169 mV and a low Tafel slope of 51 mV/dec was successfully achieved. This work paves a way for 2D-based electrocatalyst engineering and sheds light on the development of the next-generation noble metal-free HER electrocatalysts. 
    more » « less
  5. A Co–Mo–P–TiO2composite electrocatalyst is electrodeposited for the first time and the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) was characterized. The HER Tafel slope and exchange current density on the Co–Mo–P–TiO2surface were compared with Co–Mo, Co–Mo–TiO2and Co–Mo–P electrodeposits similarly prepared with comparable Co/Mo composition ratio. The Co–Mo–P–TiO2exhibited a very low overpotential at −10 mA cm−2of 31 mV in a 1 M NaOH electrolyte. The electrochemical active surface area was characterized, to show that the improvement is not merely due to surface roughness but is an intrinsic effect. The role of TiO2and P differed in the Co–Mo electrodeposit.

    more » « less