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Title: Electrochemical reduction of oxygen
Author: Li, Qian
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 6673
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The main aim of the work reported is the design of proof-of-concept of at point-of-use hydrogen peroxide electrogeneration from air. The experimental work discussed within this thesis explores five major areas: the kinetics of electrocatalysis, ion-pairing, change of solvent media, the electrode surface modication by a redox mediator, and the electrochemical reduction of oxygen within enhanced mass transport systems. The electrocatalytic rates and mass transport of two oxygen reduction redox meditors, viz. anthraquinone and methyl viologen, are studied in aqueous solutions. The investigation is facilitated through the use of a boron-doped diamond electrode, allowing the catalytic response to be clearly delineated from that of the direct oxygen reduction process. The use of simulation software is highlighted in combination with experimental voltammograms to extract kinetic data. Specifically, the voltammetric features, such as the `reverse' peak and the `split waves', are given particular attention. Consequently, it is possible to deconvolute the electrocatalytic reaction mechanisms. The reactivity of the viologen radical cation is comparable to the semiquinone radical anion in aqueous solution ((4.8~6)x10^9 M^-1 s^-1), but over a far wider pH range (pH 2.5 - pH 8.5). The change of local proton concentration, and sequential electron transfers play key roles here. Moreover, the reduced reactivity of semiquinone is observed upon formation of ion-pairs with tetrabutylammonium cations in alkaline solutions. The electro-reduction of oxygen and its mediated pathways are also investigated in non-aqueous media; in particular the thermodynamics, the kinetics, and mass transport involved in these processes. Through a variable temperature study in electrolytic acetonitrile solution, the oxygen dissolution is quantitatively shown to be an endothermic process. Moreover, the diffusion coeficients and concentration of oxygen upon change of acetonitrile mole fraction is also explored in water-acetonitrile mixtures. The rates of bimolecular reactions are extracted from simulation programs, involving semiquinone in anhydrous acetonitrile and viologen radical cation in ethanol, and show a 3 - 4 orders of magnitude reduction compared to that in aqueous solution. Although the solubility of oxygen is ca. 6 - 8 times larger in non-aqueous solvents, the much reduced homogeneous rates limit the electrogeneration of hydrogen peroxide in pure organic media. Novel surface modification methodologies for graphitic surfaces with covalently attached anthraquinonyl groups are studied and characterised. The anthraquinonyl-modified carbon surfaces show much reduced overpotentials required for oxygen reduction. In the final chapter, utilising the new surface modification methodology and novel designs, two gravity-feed flow cells for electrochemical reduction of oxygen in aqueous solutions are proposed and characterised, one based upon the tubular electrode geometry. The other exhibits much enhanced current conversion by using a porous reticulated vitreous carbon electrode. The latter may provide a prototype hydrodynamic system to produce dilute hydrogen peroxide solution at point-of-use.
Supervisor: Compton, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Physical Sciences ; Chemistry & allied sciences ; Physical & theoretical chemistry ; Surface chemistry ; chemistry ; electrochemistry ; electrochemical method ; oxygen ; reduction ; quinone ; viologen ; kinetics ; mass transport ; flow cell