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J Am Chem Soc. 2006 Jun 14;128(23):7408-9.

Superoxide anion is the intermediate in the oxygen reduction reaction on platinum electrodes.

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Chemistry Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York 11973, USA.


We identified the superoxide anion as the intermediate in the oxygen (O2) reduction reaction on a platinum (Pt) electrode in alkaline solution (pH = 11) using a surface-enhanced infrared spectroscopy technique with an attenuated total reflection mode. Spectral and voltammetry data, together with the vibrational frequencies calculated using the density functional theory, provide evidence for the formation of O2-. The supporting evidence includes similar spectra that we obtained for O2 reduction on Pt in acetonitrile solutions and a lack of spectra in the absence of O2 or its reduction. The appearance of O2- means that the series reaction pathway operates during O2 reduction on Pt electrodes in alkaline solutions and very likely also in acid solutions. This finding opens up the possibility of formulating a detailed reaction mechanism on surfaces supporting a four-electron reduction, which is critical in completely understanding the kinetics of O2 reduction, thus resolving dilemmas in the theoretical treatment of its kinetics and the design of new electrocatalysts.

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