Advanced Materials

Colloidal Cobalt Phosphide Nanocrystals as Trifunctional Electrocatalysts for Overall Water Splitting Powered by a Zinc–Air Battery

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Highly efficient and stable electrocatalysts, particularly those that are capable of multifunctionality in the same electrolyte, are in high demand for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), oxygen evolution reaction (OER), and oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). In this work, highly monodisperse CoP and Co2P nanocrystals (NCs) are synthesized using a robust solution-phase method. The highly exposed (211) crystal plane and abundant surface phosphide atoms make the CoP NCs efficient catalysts toward ORR and HER, while metal-rich Co2P NCs show higher OER performance owing to easier formation of plentiful Co2P@COOH heterojunctions. Density functional theory calculation results indicate that the desorption of OH* from cobalt sites is the rate-limiting step for both CoP and Co2P in ORR and that the high content of phosphide can lower the reaction barrier. A water electrolyzer constructed with a CoP NC cathode and a Co2P NC anode can achieve a current density of 10 mA cm−2 at 1.56 V, comparable even to the noble metal-based Pt/C and RuO2/C pair. Furthermore, the CoP NCs are employed as an air cathode in a primary zinc–air battery, exhibiting a high power density of 62 mW cm−2 and good stability.