Identifying the active surfaces of electrochemically tuned LiCoO2 for oxygen evolution reaction

Zhiyi Lu, Guangxu Chen, Yanbin Li, Haotian Wang, Jin Xie, Lei Liao, Chong Liu, Yayuan Liu, Tong Wu, Yuzhang Li, Alan C. Luntz, Michal Bajdich, Yi Cui
Year of publication: 
Journal of American Chemical Society

Identification of active sites for catalytic processes has both fundamental and technological implications for rational design of future catalysts. Herein, we study the active surfaces of layered lithium cobalt oxides (LCO) for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) using the enhancement effect of electrochemical delithiation (De-LCO). Our theoretical results indicate that the most stable (0001) surface has a very large overpotential for OER independently of lithium content. In contrast, edge sites such as the non-polar (112 ̅0) and polar (011 ̅2) surfaces are predicted to be highly active and dependent on (de)lithiation. The effect of lithium extraction from LCO on the surfaces and their OER activities can be understood by the increase of Co4+ sites relative to Co3+ and by the shift of active oxygen 2p states. Experimentally, it is demonstrated that LCO nanosheets, which dominantly expose the (0001) surface show negligible OER enhancement upon delithiation. However, a noticeable increase in OER activity (~0.1 V in overpotential shift at 10 mA cm-2) is observed for the LCO nanoparticles, where the basal plane is greatly diminished to expose the edge sites, consistent with the theoretical simulations. Additionally, we find that the OER activity of De-LCO nanosheets can be improved if we adopt an acid etching method on LCO to create more active edge sites, which in turn provides a strong evidence for the theoretical indication.

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