Ultrafine jagged platinum nanowires enable ultrahigh mass activity for the oxygen reduction reaction

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Science  16 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6318, pp. 1414-1419
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf9050

An activity lift for platinum

Platinum is an excellent but expensive catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), which is critical for fuel cells. Alloying platinum with other metals can create shells of platinum on cores of less expensive metals, which increases its surface exposure, and compressive strain in the layer can also boost its activity (see the Perspective by Stephens et al.). Bu et al. produced nanoplates—platinum-lead cores covered with platinum shells—that were in tensile strain. These nanoplates had high and stable ORR activity, which theory suggests arises from the strain optimizing the platinum-oxygen bond strength. Li et al. optimized both the amount of surface-exposed platinum and the specific activity. They made nanowires with a nickel oxide core and a platinum shell, annealed them to the metal alloy, and then leached out the nickel to form a rough surface. The mass activity was about double the best reported values from previous studies.

Science, this issue p. 1410, p. 1414; see also p. 1378


Improving the platinum (Pt) mass activity for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) requires optimization of both the specific activity and the electrochemically active surface area (ECSA). We found that solution-synthesized Pt/NiO core/shell nanowires can be converted into PtNi alloy nanowires through a thermal annealing process and then transformed into jagged Pt nanowires via electrochemical dealloying. The jagged nanowires exhibit an ECSA of 118 square meters per gram of Pt and a specific activity of 11.5 milliamperes per square centimeter for ORR (at 0.9 volts versus reversible hydrogen electrode), yielding a mass activity of 13.6 amperes per milligram of Pt, nearly double previously reported best values. Reactive molecular dynamics simulations suggest that highly stressed, undercoordinated rhombus-rich surface configurations of the jagged nanowires enhance ORR activity versus more relaxed surfaces.

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