The Role of Water and Adsorbed Hydroxyls on Ethanol Electrochemistry on Pd: New Mechanism, Active Centers and Energetics for Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell Running in Alkaline Medium

Tian Sheng, Wenfeng Lin, Christopher Hardacre, Peijun Hu

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52 Citations (Scopus)


First principles calculations with molecular dynamics are
utilized to simulate a simplified electrical double layer formed in the
active electric potential region during the electrocatalytic oxidation of
ethanol on Pd electrodes running in an alkaline electrolyte. Our
simulations provide an atomic level insight into how ethanol oxidation
occurs in fuel cells: New mechanisms in the presence of the simplified
electrical double layer are found to be different from the traditional
ones; through concerted-like dehydrogenation paths, both acetaldehyde
and acetate are produced in such a way as to avoid a variety of
intermediates, which is consistent with the experimental data obtained
from in situ FTIR spectroscopy. Our work shows that adsorbed OH on
the Pd electrode rather than Pd atoms is the active center for the
reactions; the dissociation of the C−H bond is facilitated by the
adsorption of an OH− anion on the surface, resulting in the formation
of water. Our calculations demonstrate that water dissociation rather than H desorption is the main channel through which
electrical current is generated on the Pd electrode. The effects of the inner Helmholtz layer and the outer Helmholtz layer are
decoupled, with only the inner Helmholtz layer being found to have a significant impact on the mechanistics of the reaction. Our
results provide atomic level insight into the significance of the simplified electrical double layer in electrocatalysis, which may be
of general importance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5762
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2014

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