A theoretical study on the mechanism of hydrogen evolution on non-precious partially oxidized nickel-based heterostructures for fuel cells
It is desirable, yet challenging, to utilize non-precious metals instead of noble-metals as efficient catalysts in the renewable energy manufacturing industry. Using first principles calculations, we study the structural characteristics of partially oxidized nickel-based nanoheterostructures (NiO/Ni NHSs), and the interfacial effects on hydrogen evolution. The origin of the enhanced hydrogen evolution performance is discussed at the microscopic level. This study identifies two types of active sites of the exposed Ni surface available for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). One is the hcp-hollow sites near the perimeter boundary that exhibit a more excellent HER performance than platinum (Pt), and the other the second nearest neighbor fcc-hollow sites away from the boundary that exhibit a similar performance to Pt. The interfacial effects result from the competitive charge transfer between NiO and Ni surfaces in NHSs, and enhance the reactivity of NiO/Ni NHSs by shifting the d-states of surface atoms down in energy. The illumination of the mechanism would be helpful for the design of more efficient and cheap transition metal-based catalysts.