Advanced Electrochemistry of Individual Metal Clusters Electrodeposited Atom by Atom to Nanometer by Nanometer

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ConspectusMetal clusters are very important as building blocks for nanoparticles (NPs) for electrocatalysis and electroanalysis in both fundamental and applied electrochemistry. Attention has been given to understanding of traditional nucleation and growth of metal clusters and to their catalytic activities for various electrochemical applications in energy harvesting as well as analytical sensing. Importantly, understanding the properties of these clusters, primarily the relationship between catalysis and morphology, is required to optimize catalytic function. This has been difficult due to the heterogeneities in the size, shape, and surface properties. Thus, methods that address these issues are necessary to begin understanding the reactivity of individual catalytic centers as opposed to ensemble measurements, where the effect of size and morphology on the catalysis is averaged out in the measurement.This Account introduces our advanced electrochemical approaches to focus on each isolated metal cluster, where we electrochemically fabricated clusters or NPs atom by atom to nanometer by nanometer and explored their electrochemistry for their kinetic and catalytic behavior. Such approaches expand the dimensions of analysis, to include the electrochemistry of (1) a discrete atomic cluster, (2) solely a single NP, or (3) individual NPs in the ensemble sample. Specifically, we studied the electrocatalysis of atomic metal clusters as a nascent electrocatalyst via direct electrodeposition on carbon ultramicroelectrode (C UME) in a femtomolar metal ion precursor. In addition, we developed tunneling ultramicroelectrodes (TUMEs) to study electron transfer (ET) kinetics of a redox probe at a single metal NP electrodeposited on this TUME. Owing to the small dimension of a NP as an active area of a TUME, extremely high mass transfer conditions yielded a remarkably high standard ET rate constant, k0, of 36 cm/s for outer-sphere ET reaction. Most recently, we advanced nanoscale scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) imaging to resolve the electrocatalytic activity of individual electrodeposited NPs within an ensemble sample yielding consistent high k0 values of ≥2 cm/s for the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) at different NPs. We envision that our advanced electrochemical approaches will enable us to systematically address structure effects on the catalytic activity, thus providing a quantitative guideline for electrocatalysts in energy-related applications.

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Accounts of Chemical Research