Catalytic activity of individual cobalt oxide nanoparticles determined

December 15, 2020

Precious metal-free nanoparticles could serve as powerful catalysts in the future, for example for hydrogen production. To optimize them, researchers must be able to analyze the properties of individual particles. A new method for this has been suggested by a team from the Center for Electrochemistry at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE). The group developed a method using a robotic arm that allows them to select individual particles under an electron microscope and place them on a nanoelectrode for electrochemical analysis. The method is described in the journal Angewandte Chemie, published online in advance 19 November 2020.

Using a robotic arm to deposit nanoparticles onto electrode

For the studies, the scientists used hexagon-shaped particles of cobalt oxide with diameters of 180 to 300 nanometers, which the Duisburg-Essen team consisting of Professor Stephan Schulz and Sascha Saddeler had synthesized. In the experiment, the particles catalyzed the so-called oxygen evolution reaction. During the electrolysis of water, hydrogen and oxygen are formed, with the limiting step in this process currently being the partial reaction in which the oxygen is formed. More efficient catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction would simplify the efficiency for electrochemical water splitting under formation of hydrogen. Nanoparticle catalysts are supposed to help with this. Since their catalytic activity often depends on their size or shape, it is important to understand the properties of individual particles in order to find the optimal catalysts.

The Bochum team consisting of Thomas Quast, Dr. Harshitha Barike Aiyappa, Dr. Patrick Wilde, Dr. Yen-Ting Chen and Professor Wolfgang Schuhmann analyzed selected cobalt oxide particles first microscopically, then electrochemically. "Using a movable robotic arm, we can pick out individual nanoparticles under the electron microscope," Schuhmann explains. "The selected particle, which we then already know microscopically, we place on a tiny electrode to test what it can do as a catalyst." The researchers then use electrochemical methods to measure its catalytic activity for the oxygen evolution reaction.

High catalytic activity

In this way, the chemists analyzed several individual particles. Since they knew the size and crystal orientation of a particle, they were able to relate the catalytic activity to the number of cobalt atoms. "Here, the particles showed remarkably high activities in the oxygen evolution reaction, and the measured current densities exceeded commercially available alkaline electrolyzers by more than 20 times," says Stephan Schulz.

"We believe that by applying the proposed methodology, single particle analysis of catalyst materials has finally reached the point of reliable and comparatively simple sample preparation and characterization, which are crucial for establishing structure-function relationships," the authors write in conclusion.

Ruhr-University Bochum

Related Hydrogen Articles from Brightsurf:

Solar hydrogen: let's consider the stability of photoelectrodes
As part of an international collaboration, a team at the HZB has examined the corrosion processes of high-quality BiVO4 photoelectrodes using different state-of-the-art characterisation methods.

Hydrogen vehicles might soon become the global norm
Roughly one billion cars and trucks zoom about the world's roadways.

Hydrogen economy with mass production of high-purity hydrogen from ammonia
The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has made an announcement about the technology to extract high-purity hydrogen from ammonia and generate electric power in conjunction with a fuel cell developed by a team led by Young Suk Jo and Chang Won Yoon from the Center for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research.

Superconductivity: It's hydrogen's fault
Last summer, it was discovered that there are promising superconductors in a special class of materials, the so-called nickelates.

Hydrogen energy at the root of life
A team of international researchers in Germany, France and Japan is making progress on answering the question of the origin of life.

Hydrogen alarm for remote hydrogen leak detection
Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with the University of Chemistry and Technology of Prague proposed new sensors based on widely available optical fiber to ensure accurate detection of hydrogen molecules in the air.

Preparing for the hydrogen economy
In a world first, University of Sydney researchers have found evidence of how hydrogen causes embrittlement of steels.

Hydrogen boride nanosheets: A promising material for hydrogen carrier
Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, University of Tsukuba, and colleagues in Japan report a promising hydrogen carrier in the form of hydrogen boride nanosheets.

World's fastest hydrogen sensor could pave the way for clean hydrogen energy
Hydrogen is a clean and renewable energy carrier that can power vehicles, with water as the only emission.

Chemical hydrogen storage system
Hydrogen is a highly attractive, but also highly explosive energy carrier, which requires safe, lightweight and cheap storage as well as transportation systems.

Read More: Hydrogen News and Hydrogen Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to