The Low-Temperature Molecular Precursor Approach to Energy Storage Materials
The low-temperature synthesis of inorganic materials and their interfaces at the atomic and molecular level provides numerous opportunities for the design and improvement of inorganic materials in heterogeneous catalysis for sustainable chemical energy conversion or other energy-saving areas. The transformation of molecules to materials is an emergence phenomenon, that is, the process creates novel complex properties of the resulting material entities which are absent in the starting material. Using suitable molecular single-source precursors for functional inorganic nanomaterial synthesis allows for reliable control over uniform particle size distribution, stoichiometry which can help to reach desired chemical and physical properties. In my talk I would like to outline main advantages and challenges of the molecular precursor approach in light of selected recent developments of molecule-to-nanomaterials synthesis for renewable energy applications, relevant for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER), hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and overall water-splitting. Electrochemical water-splitting into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) is widely regarded as a promising approach to producing environmentally-friendly fuel for future energy supply. In the recent years, inexpensive, earth-abundant and environmentally benign transition metal oxides, hydroxides and other functional materials in conjunction with semiconducting co-catalyst that can independently catalyze OER and HER have been established. Still the major challenge is to provide reliable catalyst systems for HER, OER and overall water-splitting which are highly efficient, robust and long-term stable (at least for several months without loosing activity). The advantage of using the low-temperature molecular precursor approach to derive at unique core-shell structures , e.g. leading to the most efficient HER electrocatalysts reported to date, will also be discussed.