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Searching General Sufficient-and-necessary Conditions for Ultrafast Hydrogen-evolving Electrocatalysis

D. Guan, J. Zhou, Z. Hu*, W. Zhou*, X. Xu, Y. Zhong, B. Liu, Y. Chen, M. Xu, H.-J. Lin, C.-T. Chen, J.-Q. Wang, and Z. Shao*
The development of cost‐effective and high‐performance electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) is one critical step toward successful transition into a sustainable green energy era. Different from previous design strategies based on single parameter, here the necessary and sufficient conditions are proposed to develop bulk non‐noble metal oxides which are generally considered inactive toward HER in alkaline solutions: i) multiple active sites for different reaction intermediates and ii) a short reaction path created by ordered distribution and appropriate numbers of these active sites. Computational studies predict that a synergistic interplay between the ordered oxygen vacancies (at pyramidal high‐spin Co3+ sites) and the O 2p ligand holes (OLH; at metallic octahedral intermediate‐spin Co4+ sites) in RBaCo2O5.5+δ (δ = 1/4; R = lanthanides) can produce a near‐ideal HER reaction path to adsorb H2O and release H2, respectively. Experimentally, the as‐synthesized (Gd0.5La0.5)BaCo2O5.75 outperforms the state‐of‐the‐art Pt/C catalyst in many aspects. The proof‐of‐concept results reveal that the simultaneous possession of ordered oxygen vacancies and an appropriate number of OLH can realize a near‐optimal synergistic catalytic effect, which is pivotal for rational design of oxygen‐containing materials.