Acta Phys. -Chim. Sin. ›› 2021, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (10): 2003005.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB202003005

• ARTICLE • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Influence of Polyvinylpyrrolidone Capping Ligands on Electrocatalytic Oxidation of Methanol and Ethanol over Palladium Nanocrystal Electrocatalysts

Huimei Duan1,*(), Huijuan Wang2, Weixin Huang1,*()   

  1. 1 School of Chemistry and Materials Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China
    2 Experimental Center of Engineering and Material Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China
  • Received:2020-03-02 Published:2020-04-20
  • Contact: Huimei Duan,Weixin Huang;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(21525313);the Changjiang Scholars Program of the Chinese Ministry of Education


Direct alcohol fuel cells (DAFCs) have attracted considerable research interest because of their potential application as alternative power sources for automotive systems and portable electronics. Pd-based catalysts represent one of the most popular catalysts for DAFCs due to their excellent electrocatalytic activities in alkaline electrolytes. Thus, it is of great importance to understand the structure-activity relationship of Pd electrocatalysts for alcohol electrocatalysis. Recently, size- and shape- controlled Pd nanocrystals have been successfully synthesized and subsequently used to study the size and shape effects of Pd electrocatalysts on alcohol electrocatalysis, in which the Pd (100) facet exhibited higher electrocatalytic oxidation activity for small alcohol molecules than the Pd (111) and (110) facets. Although it is well known that capping ligands, which are widely used in wet chemistry for the size- and shape-controlled synthesis of metal nanocrystals, likely chemisorb onto the surfaces of the resulting metal nanocrystals and influence their surface structure and surface-mediated properties, such as catalysis, this issue was not considered in previous studies of Pd nanocrystal electrocatalysts for electrocatalytic oxidation of small alcohol molecules. In this study, we prepared polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP)-capped Pd nanocrystals with different morphologies and sizes and comparatively studied their electrocatalytic activities for methanol and ethanol oxidation in alkaline solutions. The chemisorbed PVP molecules transferred charge to the Pd nanocrystals, and the finer Pd nanocrystals had a higher coverage of chemisorbed PVP, and thus exposed fewer accessible surface sites, experienced more extensive PVP-to-Pd charge transfer, and were more negatively charged. The intrinsic electrocatalytic activity, represented by the electrochemical surface area (ECSA)-normalized electrocatalytic activity, of Pd nanocubes with exposed (100) facets increases with the particle size, indicating that the more negatively-charged Pd surface is less electrocatalytically active. The Pd nanocubes with average sizes between 12 and 19 nm are intrinsically more electrocatalytically active than commercial Pd black electrocatalysts, while the activity of Pd nanocubes with an averages size of 8 nm is less. This suggests that the enhancement effect of the exposed (100) facets surpasses the deteriorative effect of the negatively charged Pd surface for the Pd nanocubes with average sizes between 12 and 19 nm, whereas the deteriorative effect of the negatively charged Pd surface surpasses the enhancement effect of the exposed (100) facets for the Pd nanocubes with average sizes of 8 nm due to the extensive PVP-to-Pd charge transfer. Moreover, the Pd nanocubes with average sizes of 8 nm exhibit similar intrinsic electrocatalytic activity to the Pd nanooctahedra with (111) facets exposed and average sizes of 7 nm, indicating that the electronic structure of Pd electrocatalysts plays a more important role in influencing the electrocatalytic activity than the exposed facet. Since the chemisorbed PVP molecules block the surface sites on Pd nanocrystals that are accessible to the reactants, all Pd nanocrystals exhibit lower mass-normalized electrocatalytic activity than the Pd black electrocatalysts, and the mass-normalized electrocatalytic activity increases with the ECSA. These results clearly demonstrate that the size- and shape-dependent electrocatalytic activity of Pd nanocrystals capped with PVP for methanol and ethanol oxidation should be attributed to both the exposed facets of the Pd nanocrystals and the size-dependent electronic structures of the Pd nanocrystals resulting from the size-dependent PVP coverage and PVP-to-Pd charge transfer. Therefore, capping ligands on capped metal nanocrystals inevitably influence their surface structures and surface-mediated properties, which must be considered for a comprehensive understanding of the structure-activity relationship of capped metal nanocrystals.

Key words: PVP, Surface structure, Surface site, Morphology, Size