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Donor-Dependent Kinetics of Interfacial Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer

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journal contribution
posted on 10.02.2016, 00:00 by Megan N. Jackson, Yogesh Surendranath
The effect of the proton donor on the kinetics of interfacial concerted proton–electron transfer (CPET) to polycrystalline Au was probed indirectly by studying the rate of hydrogen evolution from trialkylammonium donors with different steric profiles, but the same pKa. Detailed kinetic studies point to a mechanism for HER catalysis that involves rate-limiting CPET from the proton donor to the electrode surface, allowing this catalytic reaction to serve as a proxy for the rate of interfacial CPET. In acetonitrile electrolyte, triethylammonium (TEAH+) displays up to 20-fold faster CPET kinetics than diisopropylethylammonium (DIPEAH+) at all measured potentials. In aqueous electrolyte, this steric constraint is largely lifted, suggesting a key role for water in mediating interfacial CPET. In acetonitrile, TEAH+ also displays a much larger transfer coefficient (β = 0.7) than DIPEAH+ (β = 0.4), and TEAH+ displays a potential-dependent H/D kinetic isotope effect that is not observed for DIPEAH+. These results demonstrate that proton donor structure strongly impacts the free energy landscape for CPET to extended solid surfaces and highlight the crucial role of the proton donor in the kinetics of electrocatalytic energy conversion reactions.