Nat Commun. 2023 Aug 30;14(1):5289. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-41030-1.
Ruthenium exhibits comparable or even better alkaline hydrogen evolution reaction activity than platinum, however, the mechanistic aspects are yet to be settled, which are elucidated by combining in situ Raman spectroscopy and theoretical calculations herein. We simultaneously capture dynamic spectral evidence of Ru surfaces, interfacial water, *H and *OH intermediates. Ru surfaces exist in different valence states in the reaction potential range, dissociating interfacial water differently and generating two distinct *H, resulting in different activities. The local cation tuning effect of hydrated Na+ ion water and the large work function of high-valence Ru(n+) surfaces promote interfacial water dissociation. Moreover, compared to low-valence Ru(0) surfaces, high-valence Ru(n+) surfaces have more moderate adsorption energies for interfacial water, *H, and *OH. They, therefore, facilitate the activity. Our findings demonstrate the regulation of valence state on interfacial water, intermediates, and finally the catalytic activity, which provide guidelines for the rational design of high-efficiency catalysts.