4 years ago

A Carbon-Free Ag–Co 3 O 4 Composite as a Bifunctional Catalyst for Oxygen Reduction and Evolution: Spectroscopic, Microscopic and Electrochemical Characterization

Helmut Baltruschat, Santhana Eswara, Ute Kaiser, Hatem M.A. Amin, Christoph J. Bondue


A key challenge for rechargeable metal–air batteries is the development of a cost-effective bifunctional catalyst for both oxygen evolution (OER) and reduction (ORR) reactions. Here, we took the advantages of high OER activity of Co3O4 spinel and high ORR activity of Ag to develop a carbon-free oxygen electrode, e.g., for Li–air batteries. The optimized Ag + Co3O4 catalyst was further characterized and exhibited a good bifunctional activity in alkaline media. From rotating ring-disk electrode results, the mixed Ag + Co3O4 catalyst revealed significantly lower (∼320 mV) overpotential for ORR than single Co3O4, and a slightly lower overpotential than pure Ag. A four-electron pathway was also elucidated. The OER activity of the mixed catalyst is 1.5-fold compared to pure Co3O4, although the Co3O4 loading is only 10%, suggesting a large synergistic effect. The potential difference between OER and ORR (i.e., the sum of the overpotentials at 1 mA cm−2) is ca. 0.85 V, which is comparable to noble metal based catalysts. To better understand the origin of this synergism, an XPS analysis was performed, demonstrating that only after oxidation of the mixed catalyst, Co3O4 was reduced to Co(OH)2 at potentials of the ORR, probably due to the presence of Ag+. This redox switching, which was not observed for pure Co3O4, is a probable explanation for the increased catalytic activity. The morphology and the electrochemically active surface area of Ag on the surface were examined by electron microscopy and lead-underpotential deposition, respectively. These results also show that when 88% of the Ag surface is blocked by Co3O4 particles, the residual 12% free Ag sites altogether have a higher activity for ORR than the (100%) pure Ag surface, i.e., the activity per Ag site is increased by more than a factor of 10. The combination of low cost and high performance endows this catalyst as a promising candidate for energy devices, and the present synergistic effect opens a new track for high activity.

Graphical Abstract

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12678-017-0364-z

DOI: 10.1007/s12678-017-0364-z

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