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  1. Nanocrystalline MnFe2O4 has shown promise as a catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline solutions, but the material has been sparingly studied as highly ordered thin-film catalysts. To examine the role of surface termination and Mn and Fe site occupancy, epitaxial MnFe2O4 and Fe3O4 spinel oxide films were grown on (001)- and (111)-oriented Nb:SrTiO3 perovskite substrates using molecular beam epitaxy and studied as electrocatalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). High-resolution X-ray diffraction (HRXRD) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) show the synthesis of pure phase materials, while scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and reflection high-energy electron diffraction (RHEED) analysis demonstrate island-like growth of (111) surface-terminated pyramids on both (001)- and (111)-oriented substrates, consistent with the literature and attributed to the lattice mismatch between the spinel films and the perovskite substrate. Cyclic voltammograms under a N2 atmosphere revealed distinct redox features for Mn and Fe surface termination based on comparison of MnFe2O4 and Fe3O4. Under an O2 atmosphere, electrocatalytic reduction of oxygen was observed at both Mn and Fe redox features; however, a diffusion-limited current was only achieved at potentials consistent with Fe reduction. This result contrasts with that of nanocrystalline MnFe2O4 reported in the literature where the diffusion-limitedmore »current is achieved with Mn-based catalysis. This difference is attributed to a low density of Mn surface termination, as determined by the integration of current from CVs collected under N2, in addition to low conductivity through the MnFe2O4 film due to the degree of inversion. Such low densities are attributed to the synthetic method and island-like growth pattern and highlight challenges in studying ORR catalysis with single-crystal spinel materials.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 7, 2023
  2. Transition metal oxides have long been an area of interest for water electrocatalysis through the oxygen evolution and oxygen reduction reactions. Iron oxides, such as LaFeO 3 , are particularly promising due to the favorable energy alignment of the valence and conduction bands comprised of Fe 3+ cations and the visible light band gap of such materials. In this work, we examine the role of band alignment on the electrocatalytic oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in the intrinsic semiconductor LaFeO 3 by growing epitaxial films of varying thicknesses on Nb-doped SrTiO 3 . Using cyclic voltammetry, we find that there is a strong thickness dependence on the efficiency of electrocatalysis for OER. These measurements are understood based on interfacial band alignment in the system as well as catalytically active surface defect states as confirmed by layer-resolved electron energy loss spectroscopy, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, and Mott–Schottky measurements. Our results demonstrate the importance of band engineering for the rational design of thin film electrocatalysts for renewable energy sources.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 25, 2023