Physical Chemistry

Designing multifunctional CoOx layers for efficient and stable electrochemical energy conversion

Authors

Abstract

Disordered and porous metal oxides are promising as earth-abundant and cost-effective alternatives to noble-metal electrocatalysts. Herein, we leverage non-saturated oxidation in plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition to tune structural, mechanical, and optical properties of biphasic CoOx thin films, thereby tailoring their catalytic activities and chemical stabilities. To optimize the resulting film properties, we systematically vary the oxygen plasma power and exposure time in the deposition process. We find that short exposure times and low plasma powers incompletely oxidize the cobaltocene precursor to Co(OH)2 and result in the incorporation of carbon impurities. These Co(OH)2 films are highly porous and catalytically active, but their electrochemical stability is impacted by poor adhesion to the substrate. In contrast, long exposure times and high plasma powers completely oxidize the precursor to form Co3O4, reduce the carbon impurity incorporation, and improve the film crystallinity. While the resulting Co3O4 films are highly stable under electrochemical conditions, they are characterized by low oxygen evolution reaction activities. To overcome these competing properties, we applied the established relation between deposition parameters and functional film properties to design bilayer films exhibiting simultaneously improved electrochemical performance and chemical stability. The resulting biphasic films combine a highly active Co(OH)2 surface with a stable Co3O4 interface layer. In addition, these coatings exhibit minimal light absorption, thus rendering them well suited as protective catalytic layers on semiconductor light absorbers for application in photoelectrochemical devices.

Content

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Supplementary material

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Supporting Information - Designing multifunctional CoOx layers for efficient and stable electrochemical energy conversion
Supporting Information include additional XRR, VASE, GIXRD, XANES, EXAFS, AFM, XPS, and EC measurements.