Understanding the Effect of Monomeric Iridium(III/IV) Aquo Complexes on the Photoelectrochemistry of IrOx· n H2O-Catalyzed Water-Splitting Systems

Yixin Zhao, Nella M. Vargas-Barbosa, Megan E. Strayer, Nicholas S. McCool, Maria Erini Pandelia, Timothy P. Saunders, John R. Swierk, Juan F. Callejas, Lasse Jensen, Thomas E. Mallouk

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Soluble, monomeric Ir(III/IV) complexes strongly affect the photoelectrochemical performance of IrOx·nH2O-catalyzed photoanodes for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). The synthesis of IrOx·nH2O colloids by alkaline hydrolysis of Ir(III) or Ir(IV) salts proceeds through monomeric intermediates that were characterized using electrochemical and spectroscopic methods and modeled in TDDFT calculations. In air-saturated solutions, the monomers exist in a mixture of Ir(III) and Ir(IV) oxidation states, where the most likely formulations at pH 13 are [Ir(OH)5(H2O)]2- and [Ir(OH)6]2-, respectively. These monomeric anions strongly adsorb onto IrOx·nH2O colloids but can be removed by precipitation of the colloids with isopropanol. The monomeric anions strongly adsorb onto TiO2, and they promote the adsorption of ligand-free IrOx·nH2O colloids onto mesoporous titania photoanodes. However, the reversible adsorption/desorption of electroactive monomers effectively short-circuits the photoanode redox cycle and thus dramatically degrades the photoelectrochemical performance of the cell. The growth of a dense TiO2 barrier layer prevents access of soluble monomeric anions to the interface between the oxide semiconductor and the electrode back contact (a fluorinated tin oxide transparent conductor) and leads to improved photoanode performance. Purified IrOx·nH2O colloids, which contain no adsorbed monomer, give improved performance at the same electrodes. These results explain earlier observations that IrOx·nH2O catalysts can dramatically degrade the performance of metal oxide photoanodes for the OER reaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8749-8757
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 15 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

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