Tuning Ni-Foam into NiOOH/FeOOH Heterostructures toward Superior Water Oxidation Catalyst via Three-Step Strategy

Splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen has become a strategic research topic. In the two semi-reactions of water splitting, water oxidation is preferred to the four-electron-transfer process with a higher overpotential (η) and is the decisive step in water splitting. Therefore, efficient water oxidation catalysts must be developed. IrOx and RuOx catalysts are currently the most efficient catalysts in water oxidation. However, the limited reserve and high prices of precious metals, such as Ir and Ru, limit future large-scale industrial production of water oxidation catalysts. In this study, we tune inert Ni-foam into highly active NiOOH/FeOOH heterostructures as water oxidation catalysts via three-step strategy (surface acid-treating, electroplating, and electrooxidation). NiOOH/FeOOH heterostructures as water oxidation catalysts only require η of 257 mV to reach a current density of 10 mA cm–2, which is superior to that of IrO2/Ni-foam (280 mV). The high electrochemically active surface area (72.50 cm2) and roughness factor demonstrate abundant interfaces in NiOOH/FeOOH heterostructures, thus accelerating water oxidation activity. The small value (4.8 Ω cm2) of charge transfer resistance (Rct) indicate that fast electronic exchange occurs between NiOOH/FeOOH heterostructures catalyst and reaction of water oxidation. Hydrogen-to-oxygen volume ratios (approximately 2:1) indicate an almost overall water splitting by the double-electrode system. Faraday efficiency of H2 or O2 is close to 90% at 2:1 hydrogen-to-oxygen volume ratio. NiOOH/FeOOH heterostructures exhibit good stability. The results provide significance in fundamental research and practical applications in solar water splitting, artificial photoelectrochemical cells, and electrocatalysts.