Mesa, C.A.; Francàs, L.; Yang, K.R.; Garrido-Barros, P.; Pastor, E.; Ma, Y.; Kafizas, A.; Rosser, T.E.; Mayer, M.T.; Reisner, E.; Grätzel, M.; Batista, V.S.; Durrant, J.R.: Multihole water oxidation catalysis on haematite photoanodes revealed by operando spectroelectrochemistry and DFT. Nature Chemistry 12 (2020), p. 82–89
Open Accesn Version

Water oxidation is the key kinetic bottleneck of photoelectrochemical devices for fuel synthesis. Despite advances in the identification of intermediates, elucidating the catalytic mechanism of this multi-redox reaction on metal–oxide photoanodes remains a significant experimental and theoretical challenge. Here, we report an experimental analysis of water oxidation kinetics on four widely studied metal oxides, focusing particularly on haematite. We observe that haematite is able to access a reaction mechanism that is third order in surface-hole density, which is assigned to equilibration between three surface holes and M(OH)–O–M(OH) sites. This reaction exhibits low activation energy (Ea ≈ 60 meV). Density functional theory is used to determine the energetics of charge accumulation and O–O bond formation on a model haematite (110) surface. The proposed mechanism shows parallels with the function of the oxygen evolving complex of photosystem II, and provides new insights into the mechanism of heterogeneous water oxidation on a metal oxide surface.