Inhibition of Tafel Kinetics for Electrolytic Hydrogen Evolution on Isolated Micron Scale Electrocatalysts on Semiconductor Interfaces

by Coridan, Robert H.; Schichtl, Zebulon G.; Sun, Tao; Fezzaa, Kamel

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Semiconductor liquid junctions are ubiquitous in photoelectrochemical approaches to artificial photosynthesis. By analogy with the antennae and reaction centers in natural photosynthetic complexes, separating the light-absorbing semiconductor and electrocatalysts can improve catalytic efficiency. A catalytic layer can also impair the photovoltage-generating energetics of the electrode without appropriate microscopic organization of catalytically active area on the surface. Here, we have developed a method using high-speed X-ray phase contrast imaging to study in situ electrolytic bubble growth on semiconductor electrodes fabricated with isolated, micron-scale platinum electrocatalysts. X-rays are a nonperturbative probe by which gas evolution dynamics can be studied under conditions relevant to solar fuels applications. The self-limited growth of a bubble residing on the isolated electrocatalyst was measured by tracking the evolution of the gas liquid boundary. Contrary to observations on macroscopic electrodes, bubble evolution on isolated, microscopic Pt pads on Si electrodes was insensitive to increasing overpotential. The persistence of the bubble causes mass transport limitations and inhibits the expected Tafel-like kinetics. The observed scaling of catalytic current densities with pad size implies that electrolysis is occurring predominantly on the perimeter of the active area.

Journal
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Volume
8
Issue
37
Year
2016
Start Page
24612
ISBN/ISSN
1944-8244
DOI
10.1021/acsami.6b07729