Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Ram B. Gupta

Second Advisor

Indika U. Arachchige

Third Advisor

Thomas D. Roper

Fourth Advisor

Christina Tang

Fifth Advisor

Umit Ozgur


Alternative energy research into hydrogen production via water electrolysis addresses environmental and sustainability concerns associated with fossil fuel use. Renewable-powered electrolyzers are foreseen to produce hydrogen if energy and cost requirements are achieved. Electrocatalysts reduce the energy requirements of operating electrolyzers by lowering the reaction kinetics at the electrodes. Platinum group metals (PGMs) tend to be utilized as electrocatalysts but are not readily available and are expensive. Ni1-xMox alloys, as low-cost and earth-abundant transition metal nanoparticles (NPs), are emerging as promising electrocatalyst candidates to replace expensive PGM catalysts in alkaline media. Pure-phase cubic and hexagonal Ni1-xMox alloy NPs with increasing Mo content (0–11.4%) were synthesized as electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). In general, an increase in HER activity was observed with increasing Mo content. The cubic alloys were found to exhibit significantly higher HER activity in comparison to the hexagonal alloys, attributed to the higher Mo content in the cubic alloys. However, the compositions with similar Mo content still favored the cubic phase for higher activity. To produce a current density of -10 mA/cm2, the cubic and hexagonal alloy NPs require over-potentials ranging from -62 to -177 mV and -162 to -242 mV, respectively. The cubic alloys exhibited over-potentials that rival commercial Pt-based electrocatalysts (-68 to -129 mV at -10 mA/cm2). The cubic Ni0.934Mo0.066 alloy NPs showed the highest alkaline HER activity of the electrocatalysts studied and therefore a patent application was submitted.

Bulk Ni–Mo phases have been known as electrocatalysts for the HER for decades, while recently transition metal phosphides (TMPs) have emerged as stable and efficient PGM alternatives. Specifically, Ni2P has demonstrated good HER activity and improved stability for both alkaline and acidic media. However, Ni2P electrocatalysts are a compromise between earth-abundance, performance (lower than Ni–Mo and PGMs) and stability. For the first time Ni–Mo–P electrocatalysts were synthesized with varying atomic ratios of Mo as electrocatalysts for alkaline HER. Specific phases, compositions and morphologies were studied to understand the intrinsic properties of TMPs leading to high HER activity. The Ni1.87Mo0.13P and Ni10.83Mo1.17P5 NPs were shown to be stable for 10 h at –10 mA cm-2 with over-potentials of –96 and –82 mV in alkaline media, respectively. The Ni1.87Mo0.13P and Ni10.83Mo1.17P5 NPs exhibited an improved performance over the synthesized Ni2P sample (–126 mV at –10 mA cm-2), likely a result of the overall phosphorous content and hetero-structured morphologies. A strong correlation between phase dependence and the influence of Mo on HER activity needs to be further investigated.

Furthermore, understanding the intrinsic properties of electrocatalysts leading to high water splitting performance and stability can apply electrocatalysts in other research applications, such as photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting, water remediation and sustainable chemical processing applications. Contributions to photocatalytic water remediation and electrochemical chlorinated generation to halogenate pyridone-based molecules are reported. Electrochemical techniques were developed and reported herein to aid in understanding electrochemical performance, chemical mechanisms and the stability of electrocatalysts at the electrode-electrolyte interfaces.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Saturday, December 12, 2020