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ACS Nano 2015, 9(8), 8474-8483

Impact Electrochemistry of Layered Transition Metal Dichalcogenides

Layered transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) exhibit paramount importance in the electrocatalysis of the hydrogen evolution reaction. It is crucial to determine the size of the electrocatalytic particles as well as to establish their electrocatalytic activity, which occurs at the edges of these particles. Here, we show that individual TMD (MoS2, MoSe2, WS2, or WSe2; in general MX2) nanoparticles impacting an electrode surface provide well-defined current "spikes" in both the cathodic and anodic regions. These spikes originate from direct oxidation of the nanoparticles (from M4+ to M6+) at the anodic region and from the electrocatalytic currents generated upon hydrogen evolution in the cathodic region. The positive correlation between the frequency of the impacts and the concentration of TMD nanoparticles is also demonstrated here, enabling determination of the concentration of TMD nanoparticles in colloidal form. In addition, the size of individual TMD nanoparticles can be evaluated using the charge passed during every spike. The capability of detecting both the "indirect" catalytic effect of an impacting TMD nanoparticle as well as "direct' oxidation indicates that the frequency of impacts in both the "indirect" and "direct" scenarios are comparable. This suggests that all TMD nanoparticles, which are electrochemically oxidizable (thus capable of donating electrons to electrodes), are also capable of catalyzing the hydrogen reduction reaction.

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