Robert B. Wexler and Emily A. Carter, Advanced Theory and Simulations/Early Review/Research Article, 2200592 (2022)
To clarify what controls species oxidation selectivity in seawater electrolysis, density functional theory (DFT) is used to identify chemisorption enthalpy trends and scaling relations for the simplest relevant adsorbates (O, Cl, and H) on relevant surfaces of 3d transition metals, as well as Pd and Pt, in face-centered-cubic and, if different, their ground-state crystal structures. Approximations are tested for electron exchange-correlation (XC) and van der Waals interactions to assess their ability to reproduce experimental adsorption enthalpies of H and O on Pt(111). The vdW-uncorrected generalized gradient approximation to XC of Perdew, Burke, and Ernzerhof (PBE) agrees most closely with experiments. Using DFT-PBE thereafter, it is determined that the O chemisorption enthalpy on this wide range of transition-metal surfaces is proportional to the sum of first and second atomic ionization energies, akin to a Born–Haber cycle for a redox reaction, indicating that metal redox activity controls O chemisorption strength. Then it is shown that the O and Cl chemisorption enthalpies are strongly correlated, suggesting that the transition metals considered will oxidize unselectively water and Cl–. This strong correlation appears also for crystal reduction potentials of binary oxides and chlorides, indicating a fundamental challenge for future seawater electrode materials design.