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Factors Governing the Activity of α-MnO2 Catalysts in the Oxygen Evolution Reaction: Conductivity versus Exposed Surface Area of Cryptomelane

Heese-Gärtlein, J. and Morales, D.M. and Rabe, A. and Bredow, T. and Schuhmann, W. and Behrens, M.

CHEMISTRY - A EUROPEAN JOURNAL
Volume: 26 Pages: 12256-12267
DOI: 10.1002/chem.201905090
Published: 2020

Abstract
Cryptomelane (α-(K)MnO2) powders were synthesized by different methods leading to only slight differences in their bulk crystal structure and chemical composition, while the BET surface area and the crystallite size differed significantly. Their performance in the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) covered a wide range and their sequence of increasing activity differed when electrocatalysis in alkaline electrolyte and chemical water oxidation using Ce4+ were compared. The decisive factors that explain this difference were identified in the catalysts’ microstructure. Chemical water oxidation activity is substantially governed by the exposed surface area, while the electrocatalytic activity is determined largely by the electric conductivity, which was found to correlate with the particle morphology in terms of needle length and aspect ratio in this sample series. This correlation is rather explained by an improved conductivity due to longer needles than by structure sensitivity as was supported by reference experiments using H2O2 decomposition and carbon black as additive. The most active catalyst R-cryptomelane reached a current density of 10 mA cm−2 at a potential 1.73 V without, and at 1.71 V in the presence of carbon black. The improvement was significantly higher for the catalyst with lower initial activity. However, the materials showed a disappointing catalytic stability during alkaline electrochemical OER, whereas the crystal structure was found to be stable at working conditions. © 2020 The Authors. Published by Wiley-VCH GmbH

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