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First-Principle Framework for Total Charging Energies in Electrocatalytic Materials and Charge-Responsive Molecular Binding at Gas–Surface Interfaces

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journal contribution
posted on 12.04.2016, 00:00 by Xin Tan, Hassan A. Tahini, Prasenjit Seal, Sean C. Smith
Heterogeneous charge-responsive molecular binding to electrocatalytic materials has been predicted in several recent works. This phenomenon offers the possibility of using voltage to manipulate the strength of the binding interaction with the target gas molecule and thereby circumvent thermochemistry constraints, which inhibit achieving both efficient binding and facile release of important targets such as CO2 and H2. Stability analysis of such charge-induced molecular adsorption has been beyond the reach of existing first-principle approaches. Here, we draw on concepts from semiconductor physics and density functional theory to develop a first principle theoretical approach that allows calculation of the change in total energy of the supercell due to charging. Coupled with the calculated adsorption energy of gas molecules at any given charge, this allows a complete description of the energetics of the charge-induced molecular adsorption process. Using CO2 molecular adsorption onto negatively charged h-BN (wide-gap semiconductor) and g-C4N3 (half metal) as example cases, our analysis reveals that - while adsorption is exothermic after charge is introduced - the overall adsorption processes are not intrinsically spontaneous due to the energetic cost of charging the materials. The energies needed to overcome the barriers of these processes are 2.10 and 0.43 eV for h-BN and g-C4N3, respectively. This first principle approach opens up new pathways for a more complete description of charge-induced and electrocatalytic processes.