Stability of CoPx Electrocatalysts in Continuous and Interrupted Acidic Electrolysis of Water

A. Goryachev, L. Gao, Y. Zhang, R. Rohling, R.H.J. Vervuurt, A.A. Bol, J.P. Hofmann, E.J.M. Hensen

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Cobalt phosphides are an emerging earth-abundant alternative to platinum-group-metal-based electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). Yet, their stability is inferior to platinum and compromises the large-scale applicability of CoPx in water electrolyzers. In the present study, we employed flat, thin CoPx electrodes prepared through the thermal phosphidation (PH3) of Co3O4 films made by plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition to evaluate their stability in acidic water electrolysis by using a multi-technique approach. The films were found to be composed of two phases: CoP in the bulk and a P-rich surface CoPx (P/Co>1). Their performance was evaluated in the HER and the exchange current density was determined to be j0=−8.9 ⋅ 10−5 A/cm2. The apparent activation energy of HER on CoPx (Ea=81±15 kJ/mol) was determined for the first time. Dissolution of the material in 0.5 M H2SO4 was observed, regardless of the constantly applied cathodic potential, pointing towards a chemical instead of an electrochemical origin of the observed cathodic instability. The current density and HER faradaic efficiency (FE) were found to be stable during chronoamperometric treatment, as the chemical composition of the HER-active phase remained unchanged. On the contrary, a dynamic potential change performed in a repeated way facilitated dissolution of the film, yielding its complete degradation within 5 h. There, the FE was also found to be changing. An oxidative route of CoPx dissolution has also been proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1230-1239
Number of pages10
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018


  • cobalt phosphide
  • hydrogen evolution reaction
  • model electrodes
  • stability


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