STRUCTURE-ACTIVITY RELATIONSHIPS IN NI-FE (OXY)HYDROXIDE OXYGEN EVOLUTION ELECTROCATALYSTS
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The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is kinetically slow and hence a significant efficiency loss in electricity-driven water electrolysis. Understanding the relationships between architecture, composition, and activity in high-performing catalyst systems are critical for the development of better catalysts. This dissertation discusses areas both fundamental and applied that seek to better understand how to accurately measure catalyst activity as well as ways to design higher performing catalysts. Chapter I introduces the work that has been done in the field to date. Chapter II compares various methods of determining the electrochemically active surface area of a film. It further discusses how pulsed and continuous electrodepostition techniques effect film morphology and behavior, and shows that using a simple electrodeposition can create high loading films with architectures that outperform those deposited onto inert substrates. The reversibility of the films, a measure of the films transport efficiency, is introduced and shown to correlate strongly with performance. Chapter III uses high energy x-ray scattering to probe the nanocrystalline domains of the largely amorphous NiFe oxyhydroxide catalysts, and shows that significant similarities in the local structure are not responsible for the change in performance for the films synthesized under different conditions. Bond lengths for oxidized and reduced catalysts are determined, and show no significant phase segregation occurs. Chapter IV seeks to optimize the deposition conditions introduced in Chapter II and to provide a physical representation of how tuning each of the parameters affects film morphology. The deposition current density is shown to be the most important factor affecting film performance at a given loading. Chapter V highlights the different design considerations for films being used in a photoelectrochemical cell, and how in situ techniques can provide information that may otherwise be unobtainable. Chapter VI serves as a summary and provides future directions. This dissertation contains previously published coauthored material.