Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Wang, Lichang


The lack of catalytic efficiency towards the complete ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR) has hindered the development of direct ethanol fuel cells (DEFCs). Ir-based catalysts have recently been shown promise in the complete EOR. However, the reaction mechanism of the complete EOR remains unclear, which impedes the development of better Ir-based catalysts. Herein, we performed extensive density functional theory (DFT) calculations to develop a comprehensive reaction network of EOR on Ir(100). The EOR process consists of four dehydrogenation steps of ethanol leading to the generation of CH2CO species followed by two competitive reaction pathways, i.e., a C-O bond cleavage to poisoning species (e.g., CHC) and the surface diffusion of CH2CO leading to CO2. Furthermore, our studies show that for all CHxCOy (x = 1, 2, or 3 and y = 0 or 1) species, only when the C and O atoms (or two C atoms) bind to two different surface Ir atoms can the C-C/C-O bond cleavage occur. This work highlights the essential roles of adsorption structure and diffusion of CH2CO for the complete EOR and serves as a benchmark for the future investigation of the electronic and solvent effects.Pt-Ir-based alloy electrocatalysts have shown encouraging catalytic performance on the EOR in direct ethanol fuel cells. Nevertheless, designing a suitably qualified EOR electrocatalyst remains challenging because of several convoluted factors (e.g., C1 species poisoning, acetate acid formation, and C-C bond splitting). To understand the relationship between the EOR performance and the type of catalysts, we model three kinds of (100)-exposed Pt-Ir layered catalysts and perform density functional theory (DFT) calculations to explore 58 elementary reactions of the EOR over three catalyst surfaces. According to the calculated activation energies and reaction energies, we mapped out the reaction mechanisms for EOR on different catalysts, indicating corresponding rate-limiting steps (RLSs) of the complete EOR. We demonstrated that the C-O coupling/decoupling ability of the catalyst surface plays a leading role in the overall EOR performance because a perfect complete EOR not only has to avoid some C-O coupling reactions (e.g., CH¬3CO+OH→CH3COOH) but also needs to promote some C-O coupling reactions (e.g., CO+O→CO2). We further illustrated that Pt and Ir exhibit excellent C-O coupling and decoupling abilities, respectively, implying that modifying the compositions and structures of Pt-Ir catalysts is a promising way to achieve the complete EOR. Furthermore, the Ir@Pt(100) surface (Ir monolayer over Pt(100) surface) with a Pt-doped active site possesses the most significant potential on EOR, which could impede the acetate acid formation and facilitate the CO2 formation simultaneously. This work highlights the role of tuning the C-O coupling/decoupling ability of electrocatalyst in EOR activity, providing a new strategy for designing and selecting the EOR electrocatalyst. The solvent effect has always been a non-negligible factor for aqueous reactions. In computational chemistry, researchers have been looking for a compromise between computational efficiency and the rationality of solvent models to mimic the solvent environment. In this work, I investigated the ethanol dehydrogenation and C-C bond cleavages of EOR over Ir(100)using both implicit and explicit solvation models. The implicit model exhibited little impact on the adsorbates without the hydroxyl group, whereas the explicit model can reasonably describe the system’s hydrogen bonding and van der Waals interaction. This solvent effect study showed how different solvent models affected the elementary reactions geometrically and energetically.




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