, Volume 3, Issue 3-4, pp 192-202
Date: 17 Mar 2012

Oxygen Reduction Reaction on Platinum-Terminated “Onion-structured” Alloy Catalysts

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Using periodic, self-consistent density functional theory (GGA-PW91) calculations, a series of onion-structured metal alloys have been investigated for their catalytic performance towards the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). The onion-structures consist of a varying number of atomic layers of one or two metals each, pseudomorphically deposited on top of one another to form the overall structure. All catalysts studied feature a Pt overlayer, and often consist of at least one Pd layer below the surface. Three distinct ORR mechanisms were analyzed on the close-packed facets of all the structures considered. These mechanisms include a direct route of O2 dissociation and two hydrogen-assisted routes of O–O bond-breaking in peroxyl (OOH) and in hydrogen peroxide (HOOH) intermediates. A thermochemical analysis of the elementary steps provides information on the operating potential, and thereby energy efficiency of each electrocatalyst. A Sabatier analysis of catalytic activity based on thermochemistry of proton/electron transfer steps and activation energy barrier for O–O bond-breaking steps leads to a “volcano” relation between the surfaces’ activity and the binding energy of O. Several of the onion-structured alloys studied here show promise for achieving energy efficiency higher than that of Pt, by being active at potentials higher than the operating potential of Pt. Furthermore, some have at least as good activity as pure Pt at that operating potential. Thus, a number of the onion-structured alloys studied here are promising as cathode electrocatalysts in proton exchange membrane fuel cells.