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Anal Chem ; 92(2): 2237-2243, 2020 01 21.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31874560


Probing pH gradients during electrochemical reactions is important to better understand reaction mechanisms and to separate the influence of pH and pH gradients from intrinsic electrolyte effects. Here, we develop a pH sensor to measure pH changes in the diffusion layer during hydrogen evolution. The probe was synthesized by functionalizing a gold ultramicroelectrode with a self-assembled monolayer of 4-nitrothiophenol (4-NTP) and further converting it to form a hydroxylaminothiophenol (4-HATP)/4-nitrosothiophenol (4-NSTP) redox couple. The pH sensing is realized by recording the tip cyclic voltammetry and monitoring the Nernstian shift of the midpeak potential. We employ a capacitive approach technique in our home-built Scanning Electrochemical Microscope (SECM) setup in which an AC potential is applied to the sample and the capacitive current generated at the tip is recorded as a function of distance. This method allows for an approach of the tip to the electrode that is electrolyte-free and consequently also mediator-free. Hydrogen evolution on gold in a neutral electrolyte was studied as a model system. The pH was measured with the probe at a constant distance from the electrode (ca. 75 µm), while the electrode potential was varied in time. In the nonbuffered electrolyte used (0.1 M Li2SO4), even at relatively low current densities, a pH difference of three units is measured between the location of the probe and the bulk electrolyte. The time scale of the diffusion layer transient is captured, due to the high time resolution that can be achieved with this probe. The sensor has high sensitivity, measuring differences of more than 8 pH units with a resolution better than 0.1 pH unit.

ACS Appl Mater Interfaces ; 10(7): 6661-6672, 2018 Feb 21.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29368522


Compared to many other metal oxides, anatase TiO2 shows relatively lower reactivity toward carboxylic acid anchor groups. The latter is crucial for applications, for example, in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), where the most used dyes bind to the metal oxide surface through carboxylic acid terminations. To improve the surface reactivity, metal-phosphate bilayers of Ni or Co were synthesized on anatase TiO2 compact oxide and nanotubes. In both cases, time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) results showed that the bilayers were successfully formed and that the phosphate layer works as an intermediate between TiO2 and the other species. ToF-SIMS depth profiles of modified nanotubes showed that Ni and Co are present through the whole tube length and reduce in content after heat treatment, in agreement with XPS results. Phosphate groups, on the other hand, are more present in the tubes' depth, and their content on the surface is reduced upon exposure to temperature. The reactivity of the modified surfaces toward carboxylic acid-terminated molecules, as stearic acid and Ru-based N719 dye, was evaluated. Contact angle measurements together with dye desorption experiments demonstrated that the Co-phosphate bilayers heat-treated at 300 °C resulted in the largest enhancement compared to the reference. Bilayer-modified compact anatase TiO2 and anatase TiO2 nanotubes were utilized as photoanodes in DSSCs. An increase in efficiency was observed for all modified electrodes with phosphate-Co treatment, leading to the highest JSC values and an efficiency improvement of 48%.

Langmuir ; 33(49): 13913-13922, 2017 12 12.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29140709


The effect of different post-treatments on TiO2 anatase surface reactivity was investigated in order to obtain the best techniques for enhancing anatase performance in diverse applications, e.g., in photocatalysis and especially as photoelectrodes for dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). Different post-treatments of compact anodic anatase TiO2 were compared, including O2 plasma, UV irradiation, immersion in H2O2, vapor thermal treatment, and post-anodization, evaluating the increase of the amount of OH reactive groups on the surface and removal of surface contamination. In XPS spectra, the increase of OH groups is evident by the O 1s peak at higher binding energy. ToF-SIMS principal component analysis demonstrated that treatments performed in aqueous media led to a cleaner surface, with substantial removal of electrolyte residues. Stearic acid and the organic dye N719 were adsorbed to the differently post-treated anatase, and adsorption was evaluated by contact angle and dye desorption measurements. A higher loading with molecules containing carboxylic acid functionalities was confirmed by both techniques on the treated samples. The post-treatments that presented the highest amounts of dye were used to prepare photoelectrodes, and these were tested in DSSCs where the efficiency values doubled in comparison with the non-post-treated electrode.