Electrochemical formation of Cu/Ag surfaces and their applicability as heterogeneous catalysts†
In this work the electrochemical formation of porous Cu/Ag materials is reported via the simple and quick method of hydrogen bubble templating. The bulk and surface composition ratio between Ag and Cu was varied in a systematic manner and was readily controlled by the concentration of precursor metal salts in the electrolyte. The incorporation of Ag within the Cu scaffold only affected the formation of well-defined pores at high Ag loading whereas the internal pore wall structure gradually transformed from dendritic to cube like and finally needle like structures, which was due to the concomitant formation of Cu2O within the structure. The materials were characterised by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Their surface properties were further investigated by surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and electrochemically probed by recording the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) which is highly sensitive to the nature of the surface. The effect of surface composition was then investigated for its influence on two catalytic reactions namely the reduction of ferricyanide ions with thiosulphate ions and the reduction of 4-nitrophenol with NaBH4 in aqueous solution where it was found that the presence of Ag had a beneficial effect in both cases but more so in the case of nitrophenol reduction. It is believed that this material may have many more potential applications in the area of catalysis, electrocatalysis and photocatalysis.