Direct correlation of oxygen adsorption on platinum-electrolyte interfaces with the activity in the oxygen reduction reaction

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Science Advances  09 Jun 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 24, eabb1435
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb1435


The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) on platinum catalysts is essential in fuel cells. Quantitative predictions of the relative ORR activity in experiments, in the range of 1 to 50 times, have remained challenging because of incomplete mechanistic understanding and lack of computational tools to account for the associated small differences in activation energies (<2.3 kilocalories per mole). Using highly accurate molecular dynamics (MD) simulation with the Interface force field (0.1 kilocalories per mole), we elucidated the mechanism of adsorption of molecular oxygen on regular and irregular platinum surfaces and nanostructures, followed by local density functional theory (DFT) calculations. The relative ORR activity is determined by oxygen access to platinum surfaces, which greatly depends on specific water adlayers, while electron transfer occurs at a similar slow rate. The MD methods facilitate quantitative predictions of relative ORR activities of any platinum nanostructures, are applicable to other catalysts, and enable effective MD/DFT approaches.

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