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Tuning the oxidation state of Ru to surpass Pt in hydrogen evolution reaction


The high price of state-of-the-art Pt electrocatalysts has plagued the acidic water electrolysis technique for decades. As a cheaper alternative to Pt, ruthenium is considered an inferior hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) catalyst than Pt due to its high susceptibility to oxidation and loss of activity. Herein, we reveal that the HER activity on Ru based catalysts could surpass Pt via tuning Ru oxidation state. Specifically, RuP clusters encapsulated in few layers of N, P-doped carbon (RuP@NPC) display a minimum over potential of 15.6 mV to deliver 10 mA·cm−2. Moreover, we for the first time show that a Ru based catalyst could afford current density up to 4 A·cm−2 in a practical water electrolysis cell, with voltage even lower than the Pt/C-based cell, as well as high robustness during 200 h operation. Using a combination of experiment probing and calculation, we postulate that the suitably charged Ru (∼ +2.4) catalytic center is the origin for its superior catalytic behavior. While the moderately charged Ru is empowered with optimized H adsorption behavior, the carbon encapsulation layers protect RuP clusters from over oxidation, thereby conferring the catalyst with high robustness.


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The authors acknowledge funding from the National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2018YFB1502400), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDA21090400), and the Jilin Province Science and Technology Development Program (Nos. 20190201300JC and 20180101030JC).

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Correspondence to Xiao Zhao, Junjie Ge or Wei Xing.

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Ma, R., Wang, Y., Li, G. et al. Tuning the oxidation state of Ru to surpass Pt in hydrogen evolution reaction. Nano Res. 14, 4321–4327 (2021).

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  • RuP clusters
  • Ru oxidation state
  • hydrogen evolution
  • encapsulating/confining layers