Crystal-facet-dependent surface transformation dictates the oxygen evolution reaction activity in lanthanum nickelate

Electrocatalysts are the cornerstone in the transition to sustainable energy technologies and chemical processes. Surface transformations under operation conditions dictate the activity and stability. However, the dependence of the surface structure and transformation on the exposed crystallographic facet remains elusive, impeding rational catalyst design. We investigate the (001), (110) and (111) facets of a LaNiO3−δ electrocatalyst for water oxidation using electrochemical measurements, X-ray spectroscopy, and density functional theory calculations with a Hubbard U term. We reveal that the (111) overpotential is ≈ 30−60 mV lower than for the other facets. While a surface transformation into oxyhydroxide-like NiOO(H) may occur for all three orientations, it is more pronounced for (111). A structural mismatch of the transformed layer with the underlying perovskite for (001) and (110) influences the ratio of Ni2+ and Ni3+ to Ni4+ sites during the reaction and thereby the binding energy of reaction intermediates, resulting in the distinct catalytic activities of the transformed facets.


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