Xiaofang Yang, Fang Zhao, Yao-Wen Yeh, Rachel S. Selinsky, Zhu Chen, Nan Yao, Christopher G. Tully, Yiguang Ju & Bruce E. Koel
Development of earth-abundant electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution and oxidation reactions in strong acids represents a great challenge for developing high efficiency, durable, and cost effective electrolyzers and fuel cells. We report herein that hafnium oxyhydroxide with incorporated nitrogen by treatment using an atmospheric nitrogen plasma demonstrates high catalytic activity and stability for both hydrogen evolution and oxidation reactions in strong acidic media using earth-abundant materials. The observed properties are especially important for unitized regenerative fuel cells using polymer electrolyte membranes. Our results indicate that nitrogen-modified hafnium oxyhydroxide could be a true alternative for platinum as an active and stable electrocatalyst, and furthermore that nitrogen plasma treatment may be useful in activating other non-conductive materials to form new active electrocatalysts.