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Open AccessArticle

Modelling the (Essential) Role of Proton Transport by Electrolyte Bases for Electrochemical Water Oxidation at Near-Neutral pH

Department of Physics, Free University Berlin, Arnimallee 14, 141595 Berlin, Germany
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Inorganics 2019, 7(2), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/inorganics7020020
Received: 13 January 2019 / Revised: 6 February 2019 / Accepted: 7 February 2019 / Published: 13 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in Water Oxidation Catalysis)
The oxygen-evolution reaction (OER) in the near-neutral pH-regime is of high interest, e.g., for coupling of OER and CO2-reduction in the production of non-fossil fuels. A simple model is proposed that assumes equal proton activities in the catalyst film and the near-surface electrolyte. Equations are derived that describe the limitations relating to proton transport mediated by fluxes of molecular “buffer bases” in the electrolyte. The model explains (1) the need for buffer bases in near-neutral OER and (2) the pH dependence of the catalytic current at high overpotentials. The latter is determined by the concentration of unprotonated buffer bases times an effective diffusion constant, which can be estimated for simple cell geometries from tabulated diffusion coefficients. The model predicts (3) a macroscopic region of increased pH close to the OER electrode and at intermediate overpotentials, (4) a Tafel slope that depends on the reciprocal buffer capacity; both predictions are awaiting experimental verification. The suggested first-order model captures and predicts major trends of OER in the near-neutral pH, without accounting for proton-transport limitations at the catalyst–electrolyte interface and within the catalyst material, but the full quantitative agreement may require refinements. The suggested model also may be applicable to further electrocatalytic processes. View Full-Text
Keywords: electrocatalysis; mass transport limitation; oxygen-evolution reaction; OER electrocatalysis; mass transport limitation; oxygen-evolution reaction; OER
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Dau, H.; Pasquini, C. Modelling the (Essential) Role of Proton Transport by Electrolyte Bases for Electrochemical Water Oxidation at Near-Neutral pH. Inorganics 2019, 7, 20.

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