Self-Supported Hydrous Iridium-Nickel Oxide Two-Dimensional Nanoframes for High Activity Oxygen Evolution Electrocatalysts
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2018 American Chemical Society. Oxygen evolution reaction (OER) electrocatalysts with high activity, high stability, and low costs are needed for proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers. Based on the high cost and limited supply of iridium, approaches that result in iridium-based OER catalysts with increased catalytic activity are of significant interest. We report a carbon-free, self-supported hydrous iridium-nickel oxide two-dimensional nanoframe structure synthesized by thermal treatment of iridium-decorated nickel oxide nanosheets under reducing conditions and subsequent chemical leaching in acid. The catalyst nanoarchitecture contains an interconnected network of metallic iridium-nickel alloy domains with hydrous iridium oxide and nickel oxide located in the surface region. The electrochemical oxidation step maintains the three-dimensional nanoarchitecture and results in a thin (5 ) oxide/hydroxide surface layer. The temperature used for thermal reduction was found to strongly affect the catalyst surface structure and OER activity. Using a lower thermal reduction temperature of 200 C was determined to provide a higher relative surface concentration of hydroxides and nickel oxide and result in higher OER activities compared with materials treated at 300 C. The 200 C-treated hydrous iridium-nickel oxide electrocatalyst showed 15 times higher initial OER mass activity than commercial IrO2, and the activity remained 10 times higher than IrO2 after accelerated durability testing. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations and analysis of the experimental Tafel slopes support that the second electron transfer step is the rate-limiting step for the reaction. The DFT calculations demonstrate that Ni substitution on the IrO2 surface lowers the activation energy for adsorbed intermediates of the second electron transfer step of the OER reaction. This work establishes that noble metal-decorated metal oxide nanosheets can be transformed into high surface area, carbon-free electrocatalyst nanostructures with high catalytic activities and molecular accessibility and reveals the importance of using controlled thermal reduction temperatures to alter the surface structure and OER activity.