ACS Energy Lett. 2022 May 13;7(5):1586-1593. doi: 10.1021/acsenergylett.2c00199. Epub 2022 Apr 4.
Finding alternative ways to tailor the electronic properties of a catalyst to actively and selectively drive reactions of interest has been a growing research topic in the field of electrochemistry. In this Letter, we investigate the tuning of the surface electronic properties of electrocatalysts via polymer modification. We show that when a nickel oxide water oxidation catalyst is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene, stable Ni-CF x bonds are introduced at the nickel oxide/polymer interface, resulting in shifting of the reaction selectivity away from the oxygen evolution reaction and toward hydrogen peroxide formation. It is shown that the electron-withdrawing character of the surface fluorocarbon molecule leaves a slight positive charge on the water oxidation intermediates at the adjacent active nickel sites, making their bonds weaker. The concept of modifying the surface electronic properties of an electrocatalyst via stable polymer modification offers an additional route to tune multipathway reactions in polymer/electrocatalyst environments, like with ionomer-modified catalysts or with membrane electrode assemblies.