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PLoS One. 2014 Oct 30;9(10):e107942. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107942. eCollection 2014.

Substrate selection for fundamental studies of electrocatalysts and photoelectrodes: inert potential windows in acidic, neutral, and basic electrolyte.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America.


The selection of an appropriate substrate is an important initial step for many studies of electrochemically active materials. In order to help researchers with the substrate selection process, we employ a consistent experimental methodology to evaluate the electrochemical reactivity and stability of seven potential substrate materials for electrocatalyst and photoelectrode evaluation. Using cyclic voltammetry with a progressively increased scan range, we characterize three transparent conducting oxides (indium tin oxide, fluorine-doped tin oxide, and aluminum-doped zinc oxide) and four opaque conductors (gold, stainless steel 304, glassy carbon, and highly oriented pyrolytic graphite) in three different electrolytes (sulfuric acid, sodium acetate, and sodium hydroxide). We determine the inert potential window for each substrate/electrolyte combination and make recommendations about which materials may be most suitable for application under different experimental conditions. Furthermore, the testing methodology provides a framework for other researchers to evaluate and report the baseline activity of other substrates of interest to the broader community.

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