Stabilizing ruthenium dioxide with cation-anchored sulfate for durable oxygen evolution in proton-exchange membrane water electrolyzers

Abstract
Ruthenium dioxide is the most promising alternative to the prevailing but expensive iridium-based catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction in proton-exchange membrane water electrolyzers. However, the under-coordinated lattice oxygen of ruthenium dioxide is prone to over-oxidation, and oxygen vacancies are formed at high oxidation potentials under acidic corrosive conditions. Consequently, ruthenium atoms adjacent to oxygen vacancies are oxidized into soluble high-valence derivatives, causing the collapse of the ruthenium dioxide crystal structure and leading to its poor stability. Here, we report an oxyanion protection strategy to prevent the formation of oxygen vacancies on the ruthenium dioxide surface by forming coordination-saturated lattice oxygen. Combining density functional theory calculations, electrochemical measurements, and a suite of operando spectroscopies, we showcase that barium-anchored sulfate can greatly impede ruthenium loss and extend the lifetime of ruthenium-based catalysts during acidic oxygen evolution, while maintaining the activity. This work paves a new way for designing stable and active anode catalysts toward acidic water splitting.

Acknowledgements
This work was financially supported by the Baseline Fund (BAS/1/1413-01-01) to X.L. from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

Publisher
Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Journal
Nature Communications

DOI
10.1038/s41467-023-43977-7

Additional Links
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-43977-7