Mesoporous Ni60Fe30Mn10-alloy based metal/metal oxide composite thick films as highly active and robust oxygen evolution catalysts†
A major challenge in the field of water electrolysis is the scarcity of oxygen-evolving catalysts that are inexpensive, highly corrosion-resistant, suitable for large-scale applications and able to oxidize water at high current densities and low overpotentials. Most unsupported, non-precious metals oxygen-evolution catalysts require at least ∼350 mV overpotential to oxidize water with a current density of 10 mA cm−2 in 1 M alkaline solution. Here we report on a robust nanostructured porous NiFe-based oxygen evolution catalyst made by selective alloy corrosion. In 1 M KOH, our material exhibits a catalytic activity towards water oxidation of 500 mA cm−2 at 360 mV overpotential and is stable for over eleven days. This exceptional performance is attributed to three factors. First, the small size of the ligaments and pores in our mesoporous catalyst (∼10 nm) results in a high BET surface area (43 m2 g−1) and therefore a high density of oxygen-evolution catalytic sites per unit mass. Second, the open porosity facilitates effective mass transfer at the catalyst/electrolyte interface. Third and finally, the high bulk electrical conductivity of the mesoporous catalyst allows for effective current flow through the electrocatalyst, making it possible to use thick films with a high density of active sites and ∼3 × 104 cm2 of catalytic area per cm2 of electrode area. Our mesoporous catalyst is thus attractive for alkaline electrolyzers where water-based solutions are decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen as the only products, driven either conventionally or by photovoltaics.