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Promoting Effect of the Residual Silver on the Electrocatalytic Oxidation of Methanol and Its Intermediates on Nanoporous Gold

Alex Ricardo Silva Olaya, Franziska Kühling, Christoph Mahr, Birthe Zandersons, Andreas Rosenauer, Jörg Weissmüller, and Gunther Wittstock

ACS Catal. 2022, 12, 8, 4415–4429

https://doi.org/10.1021/acscatal.1c05160

Nanoporous gold (NPG) obtained by dealloying Ag75Au25 with an overall residual Ag content of less than 1% was investigated as an electrocatalyst for the oxidation of methanol, formaldehyde, and formate in aqueous 0.1 M NaOH solution. The NPG was used to fill cavity microelectrodes, which allowed the recording of well-resolved voltammetry from the porous material. NPG differs from polycrystalline Au (Au(poly)) by its microstructure and its residual Ag content and also behaves distinctly different than Au(poly). The residual Ag content is higher at the surface of the ligaments than in the bulk. By cycling the NPG electrodes in 0.1 M H2SO4, the surface concentration of Ag could be decreased. It could then be set to a defined value by underpotential deposition (UPD) of Ag. The surface structure, and specifically its evolution upon the removal of Ag from the surface, was analyzed by the characteristic voltammetric features of Pb UPD. The effect of Ag on the electrocatalytic methanol oxidation reaction (MOR) is different in different potential regions. Ag coverage shifts the onset of the methanol oxidation current to less positive potentials. In the range of the peak current density, only a defined low Ag concentration enhanced the MOR current density compared to the Ag-free NPG. The {1 0 0} and {1 1 1} facets contributed the largest current, as concluded from selective poisoning experiments. At a potential of 1.63 V vs RHE, Ag2O at the surface is oxidized to AgO. Those layers can oxidize methanol and formate to CO2. The oxidation of formaldehyde proceeds at a much higher reaction rate than the MOR and formate oxidation; the reaction leads to CO and CO2 depending on the applied potential. Given the high oxidation rate of formaldehyde, it would be immediately further oxidized should it be formed as an intermediate of MOR. This is an important difference to the methanol oxidation at Pt. The water oxidation that occurs at the same potential range in the methanol-free solution was suppressed during CO2 formation.

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