Nickel–Iron Oxyhydroxide Oxygen-Evolution Electrocatalysts: The Role of Intentional and Incidental Iron Incorporation
journal contributionposted on 07.05.2014 by Lena Trotochaud, Samantha L. Young, James K. Ranney, Shannon W. Boettcher
Any type of content formally published in an academic journal, usually following a peer-review process.
Fe plays a critical, but not yet understood, role in enhancing the activity of the Ni-based oxygen evolution reaction (OER) electrocatalysts. We report electrochemical, in situ electrical, photoelectron spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction measurements on Ni1–xFex(OH)2/Ni1–xFexOOH thin films to investigate the changes in electronic properties, OER activity, and structure as a result of Fe inclusion. We developed a simple method for purification of KOH electrolyte that uses precipitated bulk Ni(OH)2 to absorb Fe impurities. Cyclic voltammetry on rigorously Fe-free Ni(OH)2/NiOOH reveals new Ni redox features and no significant OER current until >400 mV overpotential, different from previous reports which were likely affected by Fe impurities. We show through controlled crystallization that β-NiOOH is less active for OER than the disordered γ-NiOOH starting material and that previous reports of increased activity for β-NiOOH are due to incorporation of Fe-impurities during the crystallization process. Through-film in situ conductivity measurements show a >30-fold increase in film conductivity with Fe addition, but this change in conductivity is not sufficient to explain the observed changes in activity. Measurements of activity as a function of film thickness on Au and glassy carbon substrates are consistent with the hypothesis that Fe exerts a partial-charge-transfer activation effect on Ni, similar to that observed for noble-metal electrode surfaces. These results have significant implications for the design and study of Ni1–xFexOOH OER electrocatalysts, which are the fastest measured OER catalysts under basic conditions.