Intrinsic activity of oxygen evolution catalysts probed at single CoFe2O4 nanoparticles
Identifying the intrinsic electrocatalytic activity of nanomaterials is challenging, as their characterization usually requires additives and binders whose contributions are difficult to dissect. Herein, we use nano impact electrochemistry as an additive-free method to overcome this problem. Due to the efficient mass transport at individual catalyst nanoparticles, high current densities can be realized. High-resolution bright-field transmission electron microscopy and selected area diffraction studies of the catalyst particles before and after the experiments provide valuable insights in the transformation of the nanomaterials during harsh oxygen evolution reaction (OER) conditions. We demonstrate this for 4 nm sized CoFe2O4 spinel nanoparticles. It is revealed that these particles retain their size and crystal structure even after OER at current densities as high as several kA·m–2. The steady-state current scales with the particle size distribution and is limited by the diffusion of produced oxygen away from the particle. This versatilely applicable method provides new insights into intrinsic nanocatalyst activities, which is key to the efficient development of improved and precious metal-free catalysts for renewable energy technologies.