A study of the oxygen electrochemistry of ruthenium and iridium

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Buckley, D. Noel
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University College Cork
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This thesis is concerned with an investigation of the anodic behaviour of ruthenium and iridium in aqueous solution and particularly of oxygen evolution on these metals. The latter process is of major interest in the large-scale production of hydrogen gas by the electrolysis of water. The presence of low levels of ruthenium trichloride ca. 10-4 mol dm-3 in acid solution give a considerable increase in the rate of oxygen evolution from platinum and gold, but not graphite, anodes. The mechanism of this catalytic effect was investigated using potential step and a.c. impedance technique. Earlier suggestions that the effect is due to catalysis by metal ions in solution were proved to be incorrect and it was shown that ruthenium species were incorporated into the surface oxide film. Changes in the oxidation state of these ruthenium species is probably responsible for the lowering of the oxygen overvoltage. Both the theoretical and practical aspects of the reaction were complicated by the fact that at constant potential the rates of both the catalysed and the uncatalysed oxygen evolution processes exhibit an appreciable, continuous decrease with either time or degree of oxidation of the substrate. The anodic behaviour of iridium in the oxide layer region has been investigated using conventional electrochemical techniques such as cyclic voltammetry. Applying a triangular voltage sweep at 10 Hz, 0.01 to 1.50V increases the amount of electric charge which the surface can store in the oxide region. This activation effect and the mechanism of charge storage is discussed in terms of both an expanded lattice theory for oxide growth on noble metals and a more recent theory of irreversible oxide formation with subsequent stoichiometry changes. The lack of hysteresis between the anodic and cathodic peaks at ca. 0.9 V suggests that the process involved here is proton migration in a relatively thick surface layer, i.e. that the reaction involved is some type of oxide-hydroxide transition. Lack of chloride ion inhibition in the anodic region also supports the irreversible oxide formation theory; however, to account for the hydrogen region of the potential sweep a compromise theory involving partial reduction of the outer regions of iridium oxide film is proposed. The loss of charge storage capacity when the activated iridium surface is anodized for a short time above ca. 1.60 V is attributed to loss by corrosion of the outer active layer from the metal surface. The behaviour of iridium at higher anodic potentials in acid solution was investigated. Current-time curves at constant potential and Tafel plots suggested that a change in the mechanism of the oxygen evolution reaction occurs at ca. 1.8 V. Above this potential, corrosion of the metal occurred, giving rise to an absorbance in the visible spectrum of the electrolyte (λ max = 455 nm). It is suggested that the species involved was Ir(O2)2+. A similar investigation in the case of alkaline electrolyte gave no evidence for a change in mechanism at 1.8 V and corrosion of the iridium was not observed. Oxygen evolution overpotentials were much lower for iridium than for platinum in both acidic and alkaline solutions.
Electrical double layer , Galvanostatic method , Potentiostatic method
Buckley, D. N. 1975. A study of the oxygen electrochemistry of ruthenium and iridium. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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