Design criteria for the competing chlorine and oxygen evolution reactions: avoid the OCl adsorbate to enhance chlorine selectivity†
The formation of gaseous chlorine within chlor-alkali electrolysis is accompanied by a selectivity problem, as the evolution of gaseous oxygen constitutes a detrimental side reaction in the same potential range. As such, the development of electrode materials with high selectivity toward the chlorine evolution reaction is of particular importance to the chemical industry. Insight into the elementary reaction steps is ultimately required to comprehend chlorine selectivity on a molecular level. Commonly, linear scaling relationships are analyzed by the construction of a volcano plot, using the binding energy of oxygen, ΔEO, as a descriptor in the analysis. The present article reinvestigates the selectivity problem of the competing chlorine and oxygen evolution reactions by applying a different strategy compared to previous literature studies. On the one hand, a unifying material-screening framework that, besides binding energies, also includes the applied overpotential, kinetics, and the electrochemical-step symmetry index is used to comprehend trends in this selectivity issue for transition-metal oxide-based electrodes. On the other hand, the free-energy difference between the adsorbed oxygen and adsorbed hydroxide, ΔG2, rather than ΔEO is used as a descriptor in the analysis. It is demonstrated that the formation of the OCl adsorbate within the chlorine evolution reaction inherently limits chlorine selectivity, whereas, in the optimum case, the formation of the Cl intermediate can result in significantly higher chlorine selectivity. This finding is used to derive the design criteria for highly selective chlorine evolution electrocatalysts, which can be used in the future to search for potential electrode compositions by material-screening techniques.