An efficiently tuned d-orbital occupation of IrO2 by doping with Cu for enhancing the oxygen evolution reaction activity
The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) has been regarded as a key half reaction for energy conversion technologies and requires high energy to create OO bonds. Transition metal oxides (TMOs) seem to be a promising and appealing solution to the challenge because of the diversity of their d-orbital states. We chose IrO2 as a model because it is universally accepted as a current state-of-the-art OER catalyst. In this study, copper-doped IrO2, particularly Cu0.3Ir0.7Oδ, is shown to significantly improve the OER activity in acidic, neutral and basic solutions compared to un-doped IrO2. The substituted amount of Cu in IrO2 has a limit described by the Cu0.3Ir0.7Oδ composition. We determined that the performance of Cu0.3Ir0.7Oδ is due primarily to an increase in the Jahn–Teller effect in the CuO6 octahedra, and partially to oxygen defects in the lattice induced by the IrO6 octahedral geometric structure distortions, which enhance the lift degeneracy of the t2g and eg orbitals, making the dz2 orbital partially occupied. This phenomenon efficiently reduces the difference between ΔG2 and ΔG3 in the free energy from the density functional theoretical (DFT) calculations and can yield a lower theoretical overpotential comparable to that of IrO2. The proposed method of doping with foreign elements to tune the electron occupation between the t2g and eg orbital states of Ir creates an opportunity for designing effective OER catalysts using the TMO groups.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Global Energy Challenges: Electrochemical Energy