Ambitious Exploration in Electrocatalysis

We celebrate this excellent paper in ACS Catalysis from Manuel Corva, our fellow based at Ruhr University Bochum. This paper captures his work using the Tafel  technique to analyse electrocatalysis.

For decades, the capability to control and convert electric energy into chemical energy has inspired many technological developments and fundamental research works. In particular, electrocatalysts received great attention as tools for an efficient conversion of raw materials to high-value chemicals and fuels, promoting the imperative global transition toward greener energy cycles.

This work highlights how the extraction of charge-transfer coefficients by Tafel analyses requires a correction of the collected electrochemical current data and a proper choice of the considered potential ranges. Unfortunately, the quality of both these steps cannot be easily gauged as no benchmarking quantity is generally available to validate the analysis procedure. In this Perspective, the authors suggest such a benchmark by exploiting the derivatives of the current to obtain simple, reliable, and robust information about the performed kinetic analysis.  Since derivation can be applied to almost any existing data, it emerges as a powerful tool to corroborate and compare Tafel slope measurements with recent and past literature. Automated data evaluation may benefit from this tool in the context of data mining and artificial intelligence methods currently emerging in electrocatalysis research. If supported by microkinetic considerations, the reliably obtained rate information may additionally significantly speed up the recognition of surface reaction mechanisms during electrochemical conversions. For these reasons, the authors suggest this differential approach as a possible path for both unambiguous recognition and faster development of high-performing electrocatalyst materials.

Fabulous work, Manuel!