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The utilization of nanostructured materials on 3D nickel foam as electrocatalysts for water splitting is a subject of interest

The depletion of fossil fuels and the growing concerns regarding energy and environmental issues have prompted extensive research efforts towards the development of alternative energy sources. Electrochemical electrolysis of water is considered a promising strategy for hydrogen fuel production. However, efficient water splitting requires highly effective and durable electrocatalysts that can accelerate the kinetics of the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). Noble metal-containing catalysts such as Pt and its alloys, RuO2, and IrO2 are currently the most efficient catalysts for OER and HER. Nevertheless, the high cost and scarcity of noble metals hinder their large-scale application and the progress of renewable energy technologies. To overcome these limitations, significant efforts have been made to design and synthesize non-precious metal electrocatalysts using earth-abundant materials as cost-effective alternatives for OER and HER. Transition metal oxides, sulphides, phosphides, carbon materials, selenides, and mixed-metal complexes have been widely studied and have demonstrated good performance towards OER and HER. However, most of these electrocatalysts require higher overpotentials than noble metal-based catalysts, and improving their stability remains crucial. Therefore, the development of low-cost and efficient alternative electrode configurations with high activity and long-term stability is urgently needed for efficient water splitting.

Copper Foam 1 (4)

In the realm of electrochemical applications, two primary strategies are utilized for the preparation of electrodes. The first and most widely employed technique involves the use of a powdered form of the catalysts. Typically, electrodes are constructed by utilizing a slurry of the electroactive material, a conductivity enhancer, and a binder on a conductive substrate. However, this approach is not without its drawbacks. The primary disadvantage is the requirement of an electrical insulating binder, which can decrease the contact area between the electrolytes and catalyst. This can result in the blocking of catalytically active sites, leading to high resistance and reduced electrocatalytic performance. Additionally, the stability of the electrode is relatively poor, as the attached catalysts tend to peel off from the conductive substrate at high current density.The second primary strategy for electrode preparation involves the use of noble metal-based materials that are directly electrodeposited onto conductive substrates such as nickel foam, copper foil, carbon cloth or paper, FTO, stainless-steel, and nickel foils. However, this approach is not without its limitations. It is difficult to precisely control the accessible space between the deposited active materials, and as a result, the electrode performance fades with increased film thickness due to the inability of the substrate to access the inner catalytically active sites. Furthermore, the complexity and high cost of this approach greatly hamper its practical applications.Therefore, the development of fabrication techniques for cost-effective three-dimensional (3D) electrodes is necessary for successful electrochemical applications.

The development of novel 3D metallic materials with porous structures and high specific surface areas has garnered significant interest due to their potential to reduce ion diffusion length and enhance both ionic and electronic conductivity. As a result, a promising direction for electrocatalyst design involves combining different structural dimensionalities to create a nanostructured catalyst-support composite that offers high conductivity, large surface area, and high stability. Nickel foam (NF), a commercially available and inexpensive material, has been widely utilized as a substrate and support for electrode materials due to its desirable 3D open-pore structure, high electronic conductivity, and large specific surface area. The microholes and zigzag flow channels within NFs also provide excellent mass transport and a large surface area per unit area. Various substrates, including different metal foams, meshes, metal foils, and fabrics, have been explored as current collectors for electrochemical applications such as lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, solar cells, and water splitting. Porous NF, in particular, has garnered attention due to its low cost, conductive nature, and large electro-active surface area, which is ideal for loading catalysts and increasing electrochemically active sites. Additionally, porous NF has advantages in enhancing the mass transport of electrolytes, making it a suitable candidate for high surface area current collectors in energy applications. The direct growth of active materials on nickel foam also enhances the catalyst-substrate contact for efficient electron transport during water splitting reactions. While supercapacitor and battery electrodes remain the dominant applications of NF, recent studies have shown that electrode materials deposited on this material exhibit superior OER activity compared to nickel foil and mesh. These materials can be applied either in their native form or decorated with active materials, with the foam acting as both a current collector and support matrix. Therefore, the growth of a nanostructured earth-abundant catalytic material on a NF substrate holds promise for the development of advanced electrode materials for energy storage/conversion devices. Despite the prevalence of earth-abundant electrocatalysts directly grown on nickel foam, 3D electrodes on nickel foam for the OER and HER have not been widely investigated, despite their porous hierarchical structure, low cost, and ease of fabrication. This review covers recent developments in the fabrication of nanostructured materials on 3D nickel foam substrates designed for electrolytic water splitting for H2 production, as well as the limitations and prospects of 3D NF-based nanocatalysts.

Copper Foam

Nickel foam has been identified as an optimal three-dimensional substrate for the growth of nanomaterials possessing well-defined porous structures. A variety of nanostructures, including nanoparticles, nanosheets, films, nanoarrays, nanorods, hierarchical structures, and composites, have been successfully grown directly on nickel foam substrate electrodes. These nanomaterials have demonstrated promising efficiencies in oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), and may serve as viable alternatives to noble metal-based catalysts, which are both expensive and scarce. The most notable advantage of earth-abundant catalysts on nickel foam is their ability to function as bifunctional catalysts. Various transition metal-based sulphides, phosphides, and nitrides, such as iron, nickel, cobalt, and molybdenum, have been investigated for nanostructure fabrication, composition optimization, and performance enhancement. The structural and compositional diversity of these transition metal-based catalysts presents significant potential for further improvement in catalytic performance. However, a comprehensive understanding of the underlying mechanisms responsible for specific catalytic performance remains in its nascent stages. Therefore, the refinement of theoretical predictions and the exploration of new structural motifs and compositions will undoubtedly benefit this emerging field, facilitating the broad application of nickel foam-based water splitting.

Nickel Foam (6)

Despite significant progress in the development of nanofiber (NF)-based electrode materials for water splitting, several challenges remain before this technology can be practically applied. The primary obstacles include the limited diversity of directly grown nanomaterials and the instability of the NF substrate and nickel-based nanostructures in acidic media. To overcome these challenges, it is necessary to develop acid-resistant 3D NF-based electrodes, such as a graphene replica of NF, and to fabricate previously unattainable material phases that are electrocatalytically active and acid-resistant. Additionally, the lack of highly active and efficient electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) is a major obstacle that must be addressed. Therefore, the development of highly efficient bifunctional catalysts that can simultaneously catalyze the HER and oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is highly desirable for clean and renewable energy technologies. Hydrothermal-assisted growth on NF is the most suitable approach for almost all materials due to its ability to prepare catalysts with various morphologies of a hierarchical nature. However, the main drawback of the hydrothermal method is the lack of control over the quantity of the catalyst grown on the NF substrate.


Picture of Lu


Our materials research team from Tsinghua University postdoctoral researcher lin and Harbin Institute of Technology researcher Mu, Nanjing University of Technology researcher Wei, they share their expertise in foam metal materials article.

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WE were established in 2003, located in the Gaoxin Zone of Guangdong-Guangxi Cooperation Special Experimental Zone, covering an area of 70 mu, with a plant of about 30,000 square meters, with more than 170 employees, is an advanced new material technology enterprise integrating research and development, production and sales.

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