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Accelerating water dissociation in bipolar membranes and for electrocatalysis

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Science  02 Jul 2020:
eaaz1487
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz1487

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Abstract

Catalyzing water dissociation (WD) into protons and hydroxide ions is important both for fabricating bipolar membranes (BPMs) that can couple different pH environments into a single electrochemical device, and for accelerating electrocatalytic reactions that consume protons in neutral-to-alkaline media. We designed a BPM electrolyzer to quantitatively measure WD kinetics and show that, for metal nanoparticles, WD activity correlates with alkaline hydrogen-evolution-reaction activity. By combining metal-oxide WD catalysts efficient near the acidic proton-exchange layer with those efficient near the alkaline hydroxide-exchange layer, we demonstrate a BPM driving WD with overpotentials of < 10 mV at 20 mA·cm−2 and pure-water BPM electrolyzers that operate with an alkaline anode and acidic cathode at 500 mA·cm−2 with a total electrolysis voltage of ~ 2.2 V.

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