Ambient Pressure Hard X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy for Functional Material Systems as Fuel Cells under Working Conditions
Heterogeneous interfaces play important roles in a variety of functional material systems and technologies, such as catalysis, batteries, and devices. A fundamental understanding of efficient functions at interfaces under realistic conditions is crucial for sophisticated designs of useful material systems and novel devices. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy is one of the most promising and common methods to investigate such material systems. Although X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy is usually conducted under high vacuum because of the requirement of electron detection with the precise measurement of kinetic energies, extensive efforts have been devoted to the measurements in gaseous environments. Very recently, we have succeeded in measuring X-ray photoelectron spectra under real ambient atmosphere (105 Pa), using synchrotron radiation hard X-rays with the photon energy of 8 keV and the windowless electron spectrometer system. In this Account, the novel useful technique of real ambient pressure hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy is reviewed. As examples of (near) ambient pressure hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, hydrogen storage of Pd nanoparticles is at first investigated by recording Pd 3d and valence band spectra under hydrogen atmosphere. The Pd 3d and valence band spectra are found to change rather abruptly depending on the hydrogen pressure, demonstrating a behavior like phase transformation. Subsequently, as a main topic in this Account, we describe investigations of the electronic states of platinum nanoparticles on the cathode electrocatalyst in a polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) under the voltage operating conditions using the near ambient pressure hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic system. The Pt 4f and 3d X-ray photoelectron spectra of the cathode Pt/C catalysts clearly show that the oxidized Pt species is at most divalent and the tetravalent Pt species does not exist on the Pt nanoparticles even at the positive cathode–anode voltage of ∼1.4 V. Although the water oxidation reaction may take place at the potential, such a reaction does not lead to a buildup of detectable tetravalent Pt in the PEFC. The voltage-dependent Pt 3d X-ray photoelectron spectra show a clear hysteresis between the voltage increase and decrease processes. The fraction of oxidized Pt species matched the ratio of surface to total Pt atoms in the nanoparticles, which suggests that Pt oxidation occurs as a reaction event at only the first Pt layer of the Pt nanoparticles and the inner Pt atoms do not participate in the reaction practically. The developed technique is a valuable in situ tool for the investigation of the electronic states of PEFCs and other interesting functional material systems and devices under realistic working conditions.