Electrocatalytic and Photocatalytic Hydrogen Production from Acidic and Neutral-pH Aqueous Solutions Using Iron Phosphide Nanoparticles

Nanostructured transition-metal phosphides have recently emerged as Earth-abundant alternatives to platinum for catalyzing the hydrogen-evolution reaction (HER), which is central to several clean energy technologies because it produces molecular hydrogen through the electrochemical reduction of water. Iron-based catalysts are very attractive targets because iron is the most abundant and least expensive transition metal. We report herein that iron phosphide (FeP), synthesized as nanoparticles having a uniform, hollow morphology, exhibits among the highest HER activities reported to date in both acidic and neutral-pH aqueous solutions. As an electrocatalyst operating at a current density of −10 mA cm–2, FeP nanoparticles deposited at a mass loading of ∼1 mg cm–2 on Ti substrates exhibited overpotentials of −50 mV in 0.50 M H2SO4 and −102 mV in 1.0 M phosphate buffered saline. The FeP nanoparticles supported sustained hydrogen production with essentially quantitative faradaic yields for extended time periods under galvanostatic control. Under UV illumination in both acidic and neutral-pH solutions, FeP nanoparticles deposited on TiO2 produced H2 at rates and amounts that begin to approach those of Pt/TiO2. FeP therefore is a highly Earth-abundant material for efficiently facilitating the HER both electrocatalytically and photocatalytically.