Acta Phys. -Chim. Sin. ›› 2022, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (6): 2106010.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB202106010

Special Issue: Surface and Interface Engineering for Electrochemical Energy Storage and Conversion

• REVIEW • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Challenges and Opportunities for Seawater Electrolysis: A Mini-Review on Advanced Materials in Chlorine-Involved Electrochemistry

Baihua Cui1,2, Yi Shi2, Gen Li3, Yanan Chen3,*(), Wei Chen1,2,4, Yida Deng3,5,*(), Wenbin Hu1,3,*()   

  1. 1 Joint School of National University of Singapore and Tianjin University, International Campus of Tianjin University, Fuzhou 350207, China
    2 Department of Chemistry, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117543, Singapore
    3 School of Materials Science and Engineering, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300350, China
    4 Department of Physics, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117542, Singapore
    5 School of Materials Science and Engineering, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, China
  • Received:2021-06-03 Accepted:2021-07-12 Published:2021-07-21
  • Contact: Yanan Chen,Yida Deng,Wenbin Hu;;
  • About author:E-mail: (Y. D.)
    E-mail: (Y.C.)
  • Supported by:
    the National Key Research and Development Program of China(2018YFB0703500);the National Natural Science Foundation of China(91963113);the NUS Flagship Green Energy Programme


Hydrogen (H2) is an important component in the framework of carbon-neutral energy, and the scalable production of H2 from seawater electrolysis offers a feasible route to address global energy challenges. With abundant seawater reserves, seawater electrolysis, especially when powered by renewable electricity sources, has great prospects. However, chloride ions (Cl-) in seawater can participate in the anodic reaction and accelerate the corrosion of electrode materials during electrolysis. Although the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is thermodynamically favorable, the chlorine evolution reaction is highly competitive because fewer electrons are involved (2e-). These two problems are compounded by the dearth of corrosion-resistant electrode materials, which hinders the practical applications of seawater electrolysis. Therefore, intensive research efforts have been devoted to optimizing electrode materials using fundamental theories for practical applications. This review summarizes the recent progress in advanced electrode materials with an emphasis on their selectivity and anti-corrosivity. Practical materials with improved selectivity for oxygen generation, such as mixed metal oxides, Ni/Fe/Co-based composites, and manganese oxide (MnOx)-coated heterostructures, are reviewed in detail. Theoretically, alkaline environments (pH > 7.5) are preferred for OER as a constant potential gap (480 mV) exists in the high pH region. Nevertheless, corrosion of both the cathode and anode from ubiquitous Cl- is inevitable. Only a few materials with good corrosion resistance are capable of sustained operation in seawater systems; these include metal titanium and carbon-based materials. The corrosion process is usually accompanied by the formation of a passivated layer on the surface, but the aggressive penetration of Cl- can damage the whole electrode. Therefore, the selective inhibition of Cl- transport in the presence of a robust layer is critical to prevent continuous corrosion. Advances in anti-corrosion engineering, which encompasses inherently anti-corrosive materials, extrinsically protective coating, and in situ generated resistive species, are systematically discussed. Rational design can impart the material with good catalytic activity, stability, and corrosion resistance. Finally, we propose the following opportunities for future research: 1) screening of selective and anti-corrosive materials; 2) mechanism of competitive reactions and corrosion; 3) evaluation of anti-corrosive materials; 4) industrial-scale electrolysis with high current density; 5) optimization of experimental conditions; and 6) development of integrated electrolyzer devices. This review provides insights for the development of strategies aimed at tackling chlorine-related issues in seawater electrolysis.

Key words: Seawater electrolysis, Chlorine chemistry, Anti-corrosion, Selective electrocatalyst