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High energy states of goldand their importance in electrocatalytic processes at surfaces and interfaces

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The ability of metals to store or trap considerable amounts of energy, and thus exist in a non-equilibrium or metastable state, is very well known in metallurgy; however, such behaviour, which is intimately connected with the defect character of metals, has been largely ignored in noble metal surface electrochemistry. Techniques for generating unusually high energy surface states for gold, and the unusual voltammetric responses of such states, are outlined. The surprisingly high (and complex) electrocatalytic activity of gold in aqueous media is attributed to the presence of a range of such non-equilibrium states as the vital entities at active sites on conventional gold surfaces. The possible relevance of these ideas to account for the remarkable catalytic activity of oxide-supported gold microparticles is briefly outlined.


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Laurence Declan Burke is a graduate of University College Cork who was introduced to noble metal electrochemistry, as a PhD student, by FA Lewis at Queens University Belfast in 1961. Since returning to Cork in 1965 he has supervised over 30 PhD students in this area and has published and lectured extensively.

Andrea Judith Ahern received a BSc Degree in Chemistry from University College Cork in 1997 and then joined Professor Burke’s research group studying the electrochemistry of noble metals and the role of active states of metal surfaces and hydrous oxides in electrocatalysis. Recently she has been investigating the area of sulphur/polysulphide electrochemistry which is of interest in large scale energy storage; this work is financed by the UK company Innogy Technology Ventures Limited. Currently she is completing her PhD thesis.

Anthony Peter O’Mullane is a graduate of University College Cork (BSc 1997) and was awarded a PhD in March 2001 on the basis of a thesis entitled ‘The Electrochemistry of the Superactive Surface States of Gold’. He is currently working on Solar Cell Materials as a postdoctoral fellow in the Technical University Darmstadt, under the supervision of Prof Dr Heinz von Seggern.

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Burke, L.D., Ahern, A.J. & O’Mullane, A.P. High energy states of goldand their importance in electrocatalytic processes at surfaces and interfaces. Gold Bull 35, 3–10 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03214831

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  • Gold Surface
  • Gold Bulletin
  • Oxide Deposit
  • Carbon Monoxide Oxidation
  • Double Layer Region