Interaction of Na, O₂, CO₂ and water on MnO(100): Modeling a complex mixed oxide system for thermochemical water splitting


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Virginia Tech


A catalytic route to hydrogen production via thermochemical water splitting is highly desirable because it directly converts thermal energy into stored chemical energy in the form of hydrogen and oxygen. Recently, the Davis group at Caltech reported an innovative low-temperature (max 850°C) catalytic cycle for thermochemical water splitting based on sodium and manganese oxides (Xu, Bhawe and Davis, PNAS, 2012). The key steps are thought to be hydrogen evolution from a Na₂CO₃/MnO mixture, and oxygen evolution by thermal reduction of solids formed by Na⁺ extraction from NaMnO₂. Our work is aimed at understanding the fundamental chemical processes involved in the catalytic cycle, especially the hydrogen evolution from water. In this project, efforts are made to understand the interactions between the key components (Na, O₂, CO₂, and water) in the hydrogen evolution steps on a well-defined MnO(100) single crystal surface, utilizing x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), low energy electron diffraction (LEED) and temperature programmed desorption (TPD).

While some of the behavior of the catalytic system is observed with the model system developed in this work, hydrogen is only produced from water in the presence of metallic sodium, in contrast to the proposal of Xu et al. that water splitting occurs from the reaction of water with a mixture of Na₂CO₃ and MnO. These differences are discussed in light of the different operating conditions for the catalytic system and the surface science model developed in this work.



water splitting, manganese oxide, sodium oxide, sodium carbonate, sodium manganese oxide, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, low energy electron diffraction, temperature programmed desorption