Dynamic surface self-reconstruction is the key of highly active perovskite nano-electrocatalysts for water splitting

Nat Mater. 2017 Sep;16(9):925-931. doi: 10.1038/nmat4938. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


The growing need to store increasing amounts of renewable energy has recently triggered substantial R&D efforts towards efficient and stable water electrolysis technologies. The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) occurring at the electrolyser anode is central to the development of a clean, reliable and emission-free hydrogen economy. The development of robust and highly active anode materials for OER is therefore a great challenge and has been the main focus of research. Among potential candidates, perovskites have emerged as promising OER electrocatalysts. In this study, by combining a scalable cutting-edge synthesis method with time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy measurements, we were able to capture the dynamic local electronic and geometric structure during realistic operando conditions for highly active OER perovskite nanocatalysts. Ba0.5Sr0.5Co0.8Fe0.2O3-δ as nano-powder displays unique features that allow a dynamic self-reconstruction of the material's surface during OER, that is, the growth of a self-assembled metal oxy(hydroxide) active layer. Therefore, besides showing outstanding performance at both the laboratory and industrial scale, we provide a fundamental understanding of the operando OER mechanism for highly active perovskite catalysts. This understanding significantly differs from design principles based on ex situ characterization techniques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't