Fabricaiton, characterization, and electrolysis of mesoporous CaFe2O4 thin film electrodes
Transition metal ferrites have attracted the attention of many scientists because of their low cost, high earth abundance, low band gap, and biocompatibility. They can be prepared in different morphologies, and because of this, they may have a high surface area and excellent electrochemical and photoelectrochemical properties. In this thesis, we have prepared mesoporous calcium iron oxide (CFO) thin films using the molten-salt assisted self assembly (MASA) method and analyzed its electrochemical applications for oxygen evolution reaction (OER). The clear and homogeneous aqueous solution of metal salts (Calcium nitrate tetrahydrate, iron (III) nitrate nonahydrate) and surfactants (cethyltrimethyl ammonium bromid, CTAB, and C12H25(OCH2CH2)10OH, C12EO10) were coated on microscope glass slides by various coating techniques to obtain mesophases. Later on, the mesophases and their aging process were analyzed by the small-angle XRD measurements, ATR-FTIR and POM. Diffraction lines between 1 and 5°, 2θ, indicate the formation of ordered lyotropic liquid crystalline mesophases. These mesophases were subjected to calcination at various temperatures, and the powders obtained were further characterized by wide-angle XRD measurements, SEM, EDX, TEM, XPS, ATR-FTIR, and N2-adsorption and desorption techniques. The calcium iron oxide in highly crystalline form are prepared at 800 °C, having thin film morphology. Interestingly, we are able to retain the porous structure even at such a high temperature. The amorphous phase contains calcium carbonate as a side product that was confirmed by ATR-FTIR, XRD and XPS data. The maximum surface area of mesoporous material is 145 m2/g, while water being used as a solvent. Similarly, we prepared the same materials using different precursors (chlorides) and solvent (ethanol) to see the effect of counter anion and solvent on the porosity, self-assembly, morphology, and electrocatalytic performance of the material in the OER. We observed that while using chloride precursors, the material was quite crystalline even at low calcination temperature, i.e., 300 °C. Iron oxide forms at low temperatures and with the increase in temperature, it finally transforms to calcium iron oxide. But in this case, the materials are not as porous and display a surface area of only 5 m2/g at 300 °C. Similarly, we also characterized these materials using the above-mentioned techniques. While using ethanol as a solvent, keeping nitrate precursors the same, and using two different mole ratios of calcium and iron (2:4, 3:6), we also tried to elucidate the effect of solvent on morphology and catalytic properties of materials. In this case, we observed that the surface area did not drop immediately (as in the case of water) but gradually. The maximum surface area, obtained are almost similar to the material prepared by water as a solvent. All the solutions mentioned above (prepared by using different precursors, solvent, and mole ratios) are coated (by dip-coating) on the graphite rod to determine the catalytic activities by various electrochemical experiments (cyclic Voltammetry (CV), chronopotentiometry (CP), and chronoamperometry (CA)). Electrodes are quite stable in all cases, even in harsh conditions (CP at 100 mA for 2 h). Also, enhanced activity may be because of reduced resistance and increased conductivity with the usage. In all cases, the minimum Tafel slopes are almost similar, and vary between 47 and 83 mV/dec. The overpotentials at various current densities are 260 mV for 1 mA/cm2, about 450 mV for 10 mA/cm2, and about 700 mV for 100 mA/cm2. Additionally, effect of the coated material's thickness on the electrocatalyst's activity is also investigated. It has been found that by decreasing the amount of coated material (by diluting up to 100 times), there is no change in the activity of the material. Finally, our results indicate that these types of energy material's (CFO) performance depends on the surface's characteristics rather than the coating material's thickness or the pores' size. Also, we found it unnecessary to waste a large amount of metal salts to fabricate these materials; OER performance is similar regardless of coating thickness. Therefore, the surface reaction is the primary factor in electrode activity, with pore shape being the critical characteristic.