Integrative structural and advanced imaging characterization of manganese oxide nanotubes doped with cobaltite
Manganese oxide nanotubes (MnO2) were efficiently produced through a hydrothermal method, using SiO2 powder as nucleation points, then doped with cobaltite (Co3O4) nanoparticles uniformly deposited along the surface of the MnO2 nanotubes. An integrative approach using advanced analytical electron microscopy techniques (UHR FE-SEM, HR-TEM, and BF/HAADF-STEM, coupled with EDX) in combination with spectroscopy allowed the determination of the structural characteristics of this composite nanomaterial. Advanced imaging clearly revealed the tubular structure of the MnO2 nanotubes (diameter of 30–80 nm and length of 3–5 μm) and the arrangement of the discrete Co3O4 deposits (10–40 nm). Remarkably, high-resolution and spherical aberration-corrected STEM imaging allowed for the determination of the crystalline arrangement of the nanomaterials, particularly at the interface between MnO2 and Co3O4 particles with high spatial sub-Angstrom resolution, revealing the distribution and high structural consistency of the novel composite materials produced. Furthermore, X-ray diffraction and Raman spectroscopy confirmed that MnO2 corresponded to the crystallographic phase cryptomelane (K2-xMn8O16), while the dopant cobalt nanoparticles adopted a cobaltite (Co3O4) phase. We demonstrated the catalytic properties of the composite MnO2–Co3O4 nanotubes as an electrocatalyst material for oxygen evolution, where it showed superior behaviour, with a significantly higher catalytic activity (6.8 times) than pure MnO2 in the OER region.