Nat Commun. 2022 May 25;13(1):2916. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-30670-4.
To achieve zero-carbon economy, advanced anode catalysts are desirable for hydrogen production and biomass upgrading powered by renewable energy. Ni-based non-precious electrocatalysts are considered as potential candidates because of intrinsic redox attributes, but in-depth understanding and rational design of Ni site coordination still remain challenging. Here, we perform anodic electrochemical oxidation of Ni-metalloids (NiPx, NiSx, and NiSex) to in-situ construct different oxyanion-coordinated amorphous nickel oxyhydroxides (NiOOH-TOx), among which NiOOH-POx shows optimal local coordination environment and boosts electrocatalytic activity of Ni sites towards selective oxidation of methanol to formate. Experiments and theoretical results demonstrate that NiOOH-POx possesses improved adsorption of OH* and methanol, and favors the formation of CH3O* intermediates. The coordinated phosphate oxyanions effectively tailor the d band center of Ni sites and increases Ni-O covalency, promoting the catalytic activity. This study provides additional insights into modulation of active-center coordination environment via oxyanions for organic molecules transformation.