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Operando observation of chemical transformations of iridium oxide during photoelectrochemical water oxidation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1371–1379
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Energy Materials
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2019
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Iridium oxide is one of the few catalysts capable of catalyzing the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in both acidic and basic conditions. Understanding the mechanism of IrOx under realistic photoelectrochemical conditions is important for the development of integrated water-splitting systems. Herein, we have developed a highly efficient OER photoanode in pH 1 aqueous solutions based on a sputtered IrOx film and a p+n-Si light absorber, interfaced with a sputtered Au layer. Operando high-energy-resolution fluorescence detection X-ray absorption spectroscopy (HERFD XAS) was employed to monitor the oxidation state changes of IrOx during both electrochemical and photoelectrochemical (PEC) water oxidation reactions in pH 1 aqueous solutions. We observed a gradual increase of the average oxidation state of Ir with increasing anodic potential in the precatalytic region, followed by a reduction of Ir under O2 evolution conditions. Consistent results were obtained on dark anodes and illuminated photoanodes. However, when the thickness of IrO2 was increased to 2 and 3 nm, the spectral changes became much less pronounced, and the reduction of Ir oxidation state after the OER onset was not observed. This is due to the lower surface-to-bulk ratio, where lattice oxygen sites in the bulk are not accessible for the formation of hydroxide. More generally, the operando method developed here can be extended to other materials, thereby providing a powerful tool for mechanism discovery and an enabling capability for catalyst design.

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Field of science, Statistics Finland