Duan Research Group

Hetero-integrated Nanostructures and Nanodevices


Unraveling and Resolving the Inconsistencies in Tafel Analysis for Hydrogen Evolution Reactions

Chengzhang Wan, Yansong Ling, Sibo Wang, Heting Pu, Yu Huang*, and Xiangfeng Duan*

ACS Central Science (2024)

The Tafel slope represents a critical kinetic parameter for mechanistic studies of electrochemical reactions, including the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). Linear fitting of the polarization curve in a N2-saturated electrolyte is commonly used to determine Tafel slopes, which is, however, frequently plagued with inconsistencies. Our systematic studies reveal that the Tafel slopes derived from this approach are loading- and potential-dependent, and could substantially exceed the theoretical limits. Our analyses indicate that this discrepancy is largely attributed to the locally trapped HER-generated H2 in the catalyst layer. A non-negligible hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) current more prominently offsets the HER current at the smaller HER overpotential regime, resulting in an artificially smaller Tafel slope. On the other hand, at the higher overpotential where the HOR current becomes negligible, the locally trapped H2 substantially suppresses further HER current growth, leading to an artificially larger Tafel slope. The Butler–Volmer method accounts for both the HER and HOR currents in the fitting, which offers a more reliable method for pure Pt catalysts but is less applicable to transition-metal decorated Pt surfaces with distinct HER/HOR kinetics. Our studies underscore the challenges in Tafel slope analysis and the need for strict controls for reliable comparisons among different catalyst systems.
UCLA, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
607 Charles E. Young Drive East, Box 951569
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1569
E-mail: xduan@chem.ucla.edu