Villalobos, J.; Golnak, R.; Xi, L.; Schuck, G.; Risch, M.: Reversible and irreversible processes during cyclic voltammetry of an electrodeposited manganese oxide as catalyst for the oxygen evolution reaction. JPhys Energy 2 (2020), p. 034009/1-12
Open Accesn Version

Manganese oxides have received much attention over the years among the wide range of electrocatalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) due to their low toxicity, high abundance and rich redox chemistry. While many previous studies focused on the activity of these materials, a better understanding of the material transformations relating to activation or degradation is highly desirable, both from a scientific perspective and for applications. We electrodeposited Na-containing MnOx without long-range order from an alkaline solution to investigate these aspects by cyclic voltammetry (CV), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) at the Mn-K and Mn-L edges. The pristine film was assigned to a layered edge-sharing Mn3+/4+ oxide with Mn-O bond lengths of mainly 1.87 Å and some at 2.30 Å as well as Mn-Mn bond lengths of 2.87 Å based on fits to the extended X-ray fine structure (EXAFS). The decrease of the currents at voltages before the onset of the OER followed power laws with three different exponents depending on the number of cycles and the Tafel slope decreases from 186±48 to 114±18 mV dec-1 after 100 cycles, which we interpret in the context of surface coverage with unreacted intermediates. Post-mortem microscopy and bulk spectroscopy at the Mn-K edge showed no change of the microstructure, bulk local structure or bulk Mn valence. Yet, the surface region of MnOx oxidized toward Mn4+, which explains the reduction of the currents in agreement with literature. Surprisingly, we find that MnOx reactivates after 30 minutes at open-circuit (OC), where the currents and also the Tafel slope increase. Reactivation processes during OC are crucial because OC is unavoidable when coupling the electrocatalysts to intermittent power sources such as solar energy for sustainable energy production.