A polymeric hydrogel electrocatalyst for direct water oxidation

Zengxia Pei*, Hao Tan, Jinxing Gu, Linguo Lu, Xin Zeng, Tianqi Zhang, Cheng Wang, Luyao Ding, Patrick J. Cullen, Zhongfang Chen* & Shenlong Zhao*
Nature Communications Volume 14, 818, (2023)
DOI: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-36532-x

Abstract

Metal-free electrocatalysts represent a main branch of active materials for oxygen evolution reaction (OER), but they excessively rely on functionalized conjugated carbon materials, which substantially restricts the screening of potential efficient carbonaceous electrocatalysts. 

Herein, we demonstrate that a mesostructured polyacrylate hydrogel can afford an unexpected and exceptional OER activity – on par with that of benchmark IrO2 catalyst in alkaline electrolyte, together with a high durability and good adaptability in various pH environments. 

Combined theoretical and electrokinetic studies reveal that the positively charged carbon atoms within the carboxylate units are intrinsically active toward OER, and spectroscopic operando characterizations also identify the fingerprint superoxide intermediate generated on the polymeric hydrogel backbone. This work expands the scope of metal-free materials for OER by providing a new class of polymeric hydrogel electrocatalysts with huge extension potentials.