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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
  3. A new transmetallation approach is described for the synthesis of metal oxide nanocrystals (NCs). Typically, the synthesis of metal oxide NCs in oleyl alcohol is driven by metal-based esterification catalysis with oleic acid to produce oleyl oleate ester and M-OH monomers, which then condense to form M x O y solids. Here we show that the synthesis of Cu 2 O NCs by this method is limited by the catalytic ability of copper to drive esterification and thus produce Cu + -OH monomers. However, inclusion of 1–15 mol% of a group 13 cation (Al 3+ , Ga 3+ , or In 3+ ) results in efficient synthesis of Cu 2 O NCs and exhibits size/morphology control based on the nature of M 3+ . Using a continuous-injection procedure where the copper precursor (Cu 2+ -oleate) and catalyst (M 3+ -oleate) are injected into oleyl alcohol at a controlled rate, we are able to monitor the reactivity of the precursor and M 3+ catalyst using UV-visible and FTIR absorbance spectroscopies. These time-dependent measurements clearly show that M 3+ catalysts drive esterification to produce M 3+ -OH species, which then undergo transmetallation of hydroxide ligands to generate Cu + -OH monomers requiredmore »for Cu 2 O condensation. Ga 3+ is found to be the “goldilocks” catalyst, producing NCs with the smallest size and a distinct cubic morphology not observed for any other group 13 metal. This is believed to be due to rapid transmetallation kinetics between Ga 3+ -OH and Cu + -oleate. These studies introduce a new mechanism for the synthesis of metal oxides where inherent catalysis by the parent metal ( i.e. copper) can be circumvented with the use of a secondary catalyst to generate hydroxide ligands.« less
  4. Two NNN pincer complexes of Cu( ii ) and Ni( ii ) with BPI Me − [BPI Me − = 1,3-bis((6-methylpyridin-2-yl)imino)isoindolin-2-ide] have been prepared and characterized structurally, spectroscopically, and electrochemically. The single crystal structures of the two complexes confirmed their distorted trigonal bipyramidal geometry attained by three equatorial N-atoms from the ligand and two axially positioned water molecules to give [Cu(BPI Me )(H 2 O) 2 ]ClO 4 and [Ni(BPI Me )(H 2 O) 2 ]ClO 4 . Electrochemical studies of Cu( ii ) and Ni( ii ) complexes have been performed in acetonitrile to identify metal-based and ligand-based redox activity. When subjected to a saturated CO 2 atmosphere, both complexes displayed catalytic activity for the reduction of CO 2 with the Cu( ii ) complex displaying higher activity than the Ni( ii ) analogue. However, both complexes were shown to decompose into catalytically active heterogeneous materials on the electrode surface over extended reductive electrolysis periods. Surface analysis of these materials using energy dispersive spectroscopy as well as their physical appearance suggests the reductive deposition of copper and nickel metal on the electrode surface. Electrocatalysis and decomposition are proposed to be triggered by ligand reduction, where complex stability is believedmore »to be tied to fluxional ligand coordination in the reduced state.« less