Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol.143, No.3, 1493-1502, 2021
Recognition of Surface Oxygen Intermediates on NiFe Oxyhydroxide Oxygen-Evolving Catalysts by Homogeneous Oxidation Reactivity
NiFe oxyhydroxide is one of the most promising oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalysts for renewable hydrogen production, and deciphering the identity and reactivity of the oxygen intermediates on its surface is a key challenge but is critical to the catalyst design for improving the energy efficiency. Here, we screened and utilized in situ reactive probes that can selectively target specific oxygen intermediates with high rates to investigate the OER intermediates and pathway on NiFe oxyhydroxide. Most importantly, the oxygen atom transfer (OAT) probes (e.g., 4-(diphenylphosphino) benzoic acid) could efficiently inhibit the OER kinetics by scavenging the OER intermediates, exhibiting lower OER currents, larger Tafel slopes, and larger kinetic isotope effect (KIE) values, while probes with other reactivities demonstrated much smaller effects. Combining the OAT reactivity with electrochemical kinetic and operando Raman spectroscopic techniques, we identified a resting Fe=O intermediate in the Ni-O scaffold and a rate-limiting O-O chemical coupling step between a Fe=O moiety and a vicinal bridging O. DFT calculation further revealed a longer Fe=O bond formed on the surface and a large kinetic energy barrier of the O-O chemical coupling step, corroborating the experimental results. These results point to a new direction of liberating lattice O and expediting O-O coupling for optimizing NiFe-based OER electrocatalyst.