|dc.description.abstract||In recent years, there has been an increasing interest on renewable energy sources as substitute to fossil fuels. Among various processes of energy generation, electrochemical methods such as storage and conversion systems, electrolysis of water (production of H2 and O2), fuel cells, batteries, supercapacitors and solar cells have received great attention. The core of these energy technologies is a series of electrochemical processes, which directly depend on the nature of ‘electro catalyst’. The design and preparation of an electro catalyst is based on new concepts such as controlled surface roughness, atomic topographic profiles, defined catalytic sites, atomic rearrangements, and phase transitions during electrochemical reactions. Good electro catalysts should possess low over potential, high exchange current density, high stability, low cost and high abundance. The most fundamental reactions in the area of electrochemistry are hydrogen evolution (HER) and oxygen reduction (ORR) reactions. They are important in different energy systems such as fuel cells and batteries. Platinum has been a favoured electro catalyst due to its high activity, favourable density of states at Fermi level and chemical inertness. The low abundance, however, limits its large scale applications. Alternate materials with high catalytic activities are always required. In this particular direction, metal chalcogenides such as sulphides and selenides have attracted attention in recent years.
The present thesis describes the synthesis of different phases of palladium and nickel chalcogenides and their applicability in various electrochemical reactions, both in aqueous and organic media. First part includes the synthesis of highly crystalline palladium selenide phases namely Pd17Se15, Pd7Se4 and Pd4Se by employing facile single source molecular precursor method. Pure palladium selenide phases are prepared by thrombolysis of highly processable intermediate complexes formed from metal and selenium precursors. Continuous films of different dimensions on various substrates (glass, ITO, FTO etc.) could be prepared (figure 1). This is one of the requirements for processing any new material. Thickness of the films could be altered by changing the volume of precursor complex coated on the substrate.
All the phases are found to be metallic in nature with resistivity values in the range of 30 to 180 µΩ.cm.
Figure 1. (a) Scanning electron micrograph and (b) photographic image of Pd17Se15 prepared on different substrates glass (1), Si (2), fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO) (3) and DSSC solar cell fabricated using FTO coated Pd17Se15 as the counter electrode (4). Other components of DSSC are given in the experimental section.
All the palladium selenides phases are shown to be catalytically active towards electrochemical reactions such as HER and ORR. It is observed that the activities of the phases depend on the stoichiometric ratio of palladium to selenium. Higher the palladium
content in the phase, higher is the catalytic activity observed. Therefore, the activities of the chalcogenides can be easily tuned by varying the ratio of metal to chalcogen. Tafel slopes of
50–60 mV/decade are observed for all three phases towards HER indicating that Volmer-
Heyrovsky mechanism is operative. The exchange current densities are in the range of 2.3 x 10-4 A cm-2 to 6.6 x 10-6 A cm-2 (figure 2a).
Figure 2. (a) Linear sweep voltammograms of Pd17Se15, Pd7Se4 and Pd4Se in 0.5 M H2SO4 (HER) and (b) 0.1 M KOH (ORR) at a scan rate of 2 mVs-1.
These phases are found to be highly robust and stable under different pH conditions. Stability of the phases is confirmed by characterizing the catalysts post-HER process, using various techniques such as XPS, XRD and SEM. High activities observed for Pd4Se is explained based on electrochemically active surface area values determined from under potential deposition studies and also based on DFT calculations. Computational studies reveal the presence of different charge distribution on palladium in all the three phases which is likely to be another reason for varied activities.
Palladium selenides are also explored as catalysts towards ORR in alkaline medium. Kinetic parameters and reaction mechanism are determined using RDE studies. All the three phases are found to be active and Pd4Se shows the highest activity, following a direct 4 electron reduction pathway (figure 2b). Other two phases follow 2 electron pathway terminating at hydrogen peroxide stage. Catalytic activity of Pd17Se15 is further improved by Nano structuring of the material and by synthesizing the material on active supports such as rGO, acetylene black and today carbon. ORR plays an important role in metal-air batteries. The palladium chalcogenides are used as electrodes in metal-air batteries. Specific energy density observed in the case of Mg-air primary batteries is higher for Pd4Se than the other two phases (figure 3a).
Figure 3. (a) Discharge curves of Mg-O2 battery with different phases of palladium selenides as cathodes. Constant current density of 0.5 mA cm-2 is used for discharge. (b) Characteristic J–V curves of DSSCs with Pd17Se15, Pd7Se4 and Pt as counter electrodes.
Versatility of these phases is further studied towards redox reaction in non-aqueous medium (I3-/I-). This reaction plays a crucial role in the regeneration of the dye in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC). Palladium selenide phases prepared on FTO plates are employed as counter electrodes in DSSC. The solar light conversion efficiencies are found to be 7.45 and 6.8% for Pd17Se15 and Pd7Se4 respectively and are comparable to that of platinum (figure 3b). The reason for high activities may be attributed to high electronic conductivity and low work function of the phases.
The following chapter deals with the synthesis of palladium sulphide phases (Pd4S and Pd16S7) using both hydrothermal and single source precursor methods. Electro catalytic activities of the phases are shown towards HER and ORR and Pd4S exhibits better catalytic activities than that of Pd16S7 phase. Direct electrochemistry of cytochrome c is achieved on Pd4S with ∆E of ~64 mV (figure 4a). Electrochemical oxidation of ethanol, ethylene glycol (EG) and glycerol are also studied on the Pd4S phase and the activity is found to follow the order, glycerol > ethylene glycol > ethanol (figure 4b).
Figure 4. (a) Cyclic voltammograms of Pd4S in (1) 0.1 M phosphate buffer solution (pH 7.0) and (2) in presence of 0.2 mM cytochrome c at a scan rate of 50 mVs-1 and (b) Voltammograms of Pd4S in presence of different alcohols (ethanol, EG and glycerol) in 1 M KOH solution at sweep rate of 50 mVs-1. Concentration of alcohols used is 0.1 M.
The effect of dimensionality on the electro catalytic activity of nickel selenide phases forms part of the next chapter. Nickel selenide (NiSe) nanostructures possessing diﬀerent morphologies of wires, spheres and hexagons are synthesized by varying the selenium precursors namely, selenourea, selenium dioxide (SeO2) and potassium selenocyanate (KSeCN), respectively using hydrothermal method. The diﬀerent selenium precursors result in morphologies that are probably dictated by the by-products as well as relative rates of amorphous selenium formation and dissolution. The three diﬀerent morphologies are used as catalysts for HER, ORR and glucose oxidation reactions. The wire morphology is found to be better than that of spheres and hexagons for all the reactions. Among the reactions studied, NiSe is found to be good for HER and glucose oxidation while ORR seems to terminate at
the peroxide stage. In alkaline medium, nickel forms hydroxides and oxy-hydroxides and these oxyhydroxides are catalytically active towards the oxidation of glucose. Therefore, nickel selenides are employed as highly selective non-enzymatic glucose sensors and detection limit of 5 µM is observed. Electrical measurements on a single nanowire and a hexagon morphology of NiSe are carried out on devices fabricated by focused ion beam
(FIB) technique (figure 5). The semiconducting nature of NiSe is revealed in the I-v measurements. The band gap of the material is found to be 1.9 eV and hence the single
nanowire and hexagon are shown to act as visible light photodetector.
Figure 5. SEM images of (a) single NiSe nanowire and (b) single NiSe hexagon with Pt contacts fabricated by FIB technique.
Figure 6. Cyclic voltammograms of NiSe nanowires in 0.5 M aqueous NaOH in the (i) absence and (ii) the presence of 0.5 mM glucose, at a scan rate of 20 mVs-1 and (b) Galvanostatic discharge performance of Ni3Se2 with different morphologies (A, B and C represent Ni3Se2 prepared from SeO2, selenourea and KSeCN respectively).
The next chapter includes the synthesis of different morphologies of Ni3Se2 using three different selenium precursors (SeO2, KSeCN and selenourea) and the study of their activities towards electrochemical reactions such as HER and glucose oxidation (figure 6a). Electrical measurements demonstrated the metallic behaviour of the material. These are also shown to be efficient electrode materials in energy storage devices such as supercapacitors with high specific capacitance of 2200 F/g (figure 6b).
The studies are summarized in the last chapter with scope for further work. The appendixes show preliminary studies on electrooxidation of glycerol and propanol on Pd supported on TiN, synthesis of other selenides of Ni, Cu, Ag and Ti, and electro synthesis of metal-organic frameworks. (For figures pl refer the abstract pdf file)||en_US