Probing the Active Sites of Oxide Encapsulated Electrocatalysts with Controllable Oxygen Evolution Selectivity

William Stinson, Robert Stinson, Jingjing Jin, Zejie Chen, Mingjie Xu, Fikret Aydin, Yinxian Wang, Marcos Calegari Andrade, Xiaoqing Pan, Tuan Anh Pham, Katherine Hurst, Tadashi Ogitsu, Shane Ardo, Daniel Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrocatalysts encapsulated by nanoscopic overlayers can control the rate of redox reactions at the outer surface of the overlayer or at the buried interface between the overlayer and the active catalyst, leading to complex behavior in the presence of two competing electrochemical reactions. This study investigated oxide encapsulated electrocatalysts (OECs) comprised of iridium (Ir) thin films coated with an ultrathin (2-10 nm thick) silicon oxide (SiOx) or titanium oxide (TiOx) overlayer. The performance of SiOx|Ir and TiOx|Ir thin film electrodes towards the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and Fe(II)/Fe(III) redox reactions were evaluated. An improvement in selectivity towards the OER was observed for all OECs. Overlayer properties, namely ionic and electronic conductivity, were assessed using a combination of electroanalytical methods and molecular dynamics simulations. SiOx and TiOx overlayers were found to be permeable to H2O and O2 such that the OER can occur at the MOx|Ir (M = Ti, Si) buried interface, which was further supported with molecular dynamics simulations of model SiO2 coatings. In contrast, Fe(II)/Fe(III) redox reactions occur to the same degree with TiOx overlayers having thicknesses less than 4 nm as bare electrocatalyst, while SiOx overlayers inhibit redox reactions at all thicknesses. This observation is attributed to differences in electronic transport between the buried interface and outer overlayer surface, as measured with through-plane conductivity measurements of wetted overlayer materials. These findings reveal the influence of oxide overlayer properties on the activity and selectivity of OECs and suggest opportunities to tune these properties for a wide range of electrochemical reactions.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages15
JournalEES Catalysis
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-89958


  • ionic and electronic conductivity
  • oxide encapsulated electrocatalysts
  • oxide overlayer


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