Identification and manipulation of dynamic active site deficiency-induced competing reactions in electrocatalytic oxidation processes†
Electrocatalytic organic compound oxidation reactions (OCORs) have been intensively studied for energy and environmentally benign applications. However, relatively little effort has been devoted to developing a fundamental understanding of OCORs, including the detailed competition with side reactions and activity limitations, thus inhibiting the rational design of high-performance electrocatalysts. Herein, by taking the NiWO4-catalysed urea oxidation reaction (UOR) in aqueous media as an example, the competition between the OCOR and the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) within a wide potential range is examined. It is shown that the root of the competition can be ascribed to insufficient surface concentration of dynamic Ni3+, an active site shared by both the UOR and OER. A similar phenomenon is observed in other OCOR electrocatalysts and systems. To address the issue, a “controllable reconstruction of pseudo-crystalline bimetal oxides” design strategy is proposed to maximise the dynamic Ni3+ population and manipulate the competition between the UOR and the OER. The optimised electrocatalyst delivers best-in-class performance and an ∼10-fold increase in current density at 1.6 V versus the reversible hydrogen electrode for alkaline urea electrolysis compared to those of the pristine materials.
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