Revealing the defect-dominated oxygen evolution activity of hematene†
Oxygen electrocatalysis is vital for advanced energy technologies, but inordinate challenges remain due to the lack of highly active earth-abundant catalysts. Herein, by nanostructuring and defect engineering, we enhance the catalytic properties of naturally occurring, but normally inactive ore hematite (Ht) by converting it to hematene (Hm) with oxygen vacancies (Ov-Hm), which becomes an efficient oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalyst, being even superior to the state-of-the-art catalyst IrO2/C, with a current density of 10 mA cm−2 at a lower overpotential of 250 mV. First-principles calculations reveal that the reduced dimensionality and defects on the Hm surface locally modify the charge around the adsorption sites, which results in a reduction of the potential barrier in the OER process. Our experimental and theoretical insights suggest a promising route to the development of a highly active electrocatalyst from the naturally occurring and abundant material for OER applications.