Understanding Degradation Mechanisms in SrIrO3 Oxygen Evolution Electrocatalysts: Chemical and Structural Microscopy at the Nanoscale

Micha Ben-Naim, Yunzhi Liu, Michaela Burke Stevens, Kyuho Lee, Melissa R. Wette, Alexey Boubnov, Artem A. Trofimov, Anton V. Ievlev, Alex Belianinov, Ryan C. Davis, Bruce M. Clemens, Simon R. Bare, Yasuyuki Hikita, Harold Y. Hwang, Drew C. Higgins, Robert Sinclair, Thomas F. Jaramillo
Year of publication: 
Advanced Functional Materials

Designing acid-stable oxygen evolution reaction electrocatalysts is key to developing sustainable energy technologies such as polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyzers but has proven challenging due to the high applied anodic potentials and corrosive electrolyte. This work showcases advanced nanoscale microscopy techniques supported by complementary structural and chemical characterization to develop a fundamental understanding of stability in promising SrIrO3 thin film electrocatalyst materials. Cross-sectional high-resolution transmission electron microscopy illustrates atomic-scale bulk and surface structure, while secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging using a helium ion microscope provides the nanoscale lateral elemental distribution at the surface. After accelerated degradation tests under anodic potential, the SrIrO3 film thins and roughens, but the lateral distribution of Sr and Ir remains homogeneous. A layer-wise dissolution mechanism is hypothesized, wherein anodic potential causes the IrOx-rich surface to dissolve and be regenerated by Sr leaching. The characterization approaches utilized herein and mechanistic insights into SrIrO3 are translatable to a wide range of catalyst systems.

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