High-efficiency electrochemical hydrogen evolution based on surface autocatalytic effect of ultrathin 3C-SiC nanocrystals

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

95 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1545-1548
Journal / PublicationNano Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2012


Good understanding of the reaction mechanism in the electrochemical reduction of water to hydrogen is crucial to renewable energy technologies. Although previous studies have revealed that the surface properties of materials affect the catalytic reactivity, the effects of a catalytic surface on the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) on the molecular level are still not well understood. Contrary to general belief, water molecules do not adsorb onto the surfaces of 3C-SiC nanocrystals (NCs), but rather spontaneously dissociate via a surface autocatalytic process forming a complex consisting of -H and -OH fragments. In this study, we show that ultrathin 3C-SiC NCs possess superior electrocatalytic activity in the HER. This arises from the large reduction in the activation barrier on the NC surface enabling efficient dissociation of H 2O molecules. Furthermore, the ultrathin 3C-SiC NCs show enhanced HER activity in photoelectrochemical cells and are very promising to the water splitting based on the synergistic electrocatalytic and photoelectrochemical actions. This study provides a molecular-level understanding of the HER mechanism and reveals that NCs with surface autocatalytic effects can be used to split water with high efficiency thereby enabling renewable and economical production of hydrogen. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

Research Area(s)

  • 3C-SiC nanocrystals, hydrogen evolution reaction, surface autocatalytic effect, water splitting