Engineering Au/MnO2 hierarchical nanoarchitectures for ethanol electrochemical valorization†
The design of eco-friendly electrocatalysts for ethanol valorization is an open challenge towards sustainable hydrogen production. Herein we present an original fabrication route to effective electrocatalysts for the ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR). In particular, hierarchical MnO2 nanostructures are grown on high-area nickel foam scaffolds by a plasma-assisted strategy and functionalized with low amounts of optimally dispersed Au nanoparticles. This strategy leads to catalysts with a unique morphology, designed to enhance reactant–surface contacts and maximize active site utilization. The developed nanoarchitectures show superior performances for ethanol oxidation in alkaline media. We reveal that Au decoration boosts MnO2 catalytic activity by inducing pre-dissociation and pre-oxidation of the adsorbed ethanol molecules. This evidence validates our strategy as an effective route for the development of green electrocatalysts for efficient electrical-to-chemical energy conversion.