Space-Confined Earth-Abundant Bifunctional Electrocatalyst for High-Efficiency Water Splitting

Yanqun Tang, Xiaoyu Fang, Xin Zhang, Gina Fernandes, Yong Yan, Dongpeng Yan, Xu Xiang, Jing He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Hydrogen generation from water splitting could be an alternative way to meet increasing energy demands while also balancing the impact of energy being supplied by fossil-based fuels. The efficacy of water splitting strongly depends on the performance of electrocatalysts. Herein, we report a unique space-confined earth-abundant electrocatalyst having the bifunctionality of simultaneous hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER), leading to high-efficiency water splitting. Outperforming Pt/C or RuO2 catalysts, this mesoscopic, space-confined, bifunctional configuration is constructed from a monolithic zeolitic imidazolate framework@layered double hydroxide (ZIF@LDH) precursor on Ni foam. Such a confinement leads to a high dispersion of ultrafine Co3O4 nanoparticles within the N-doped carbon matrix by temperature-dependent calcination of the ZIF@LDH. We demonstrate that the OER has an overpotential of 318 mV at a current density of 10 mA cm-2, while that of HER is -106 mV @ -10 mA cm-2. The voltage applied to a two-electrode cell for overall water splitting is 1.59 V to achieve a stable current density of 10 mA cm-2 while using the monolithic catalyst as both the anode and the cathode. It is anticipated that our space-confined method, which focuses on earth-abundant elements with structural integrity, may provide a novel and economically sound strategy for practical energy conversion applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36762-36771
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 25 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science


  • bifunctional electrocatalyst
  • layered double hydroxide
  • monolithic catalyst
  • space-confined growth
  • water splitting


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