Perovskite oxides exhibit potential for use as electrocatalysts in the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). However, their low specific surface area is the main obstacle to realizing a high mass-specific activity that is required to be competitive against the state-of-the-art precious metal-based catalysts. We report the enhanced performance of Ba0.5Sr0.5Co0.8Fe0.2O3-δ (BSCF) for the OER with intrinsic activity that is significantly higher than that of the benchmark IrO2, and this result was achieved via fabrication of an amorphous BSCF nanofilm on a surface-oxidized nickel substrate by magnetron sputtering. The surface nickel oxide layer of the Ni substrate and the thickness of the BSCF film were further used to tune the intrinsic OER activity and stability of the BSCF catalyst by optimizing the electronic configuration of the transition metal cations in BSCF via the interaction between the nanofilm and the surface nickel oxide, which enables up to 315-fold enhanced mass-specific activity compared to the crystalline BSCF bulk phase. Moreover, the amorphous BSCF-Ni foam anode coupled with the Pt-Ni foam cathode demonstrated an attractive small overpotential of 0.34 V at 10 mA cm-2 for water electrolysis, with a BSCF loading as low as 154.8 μg cm-2.
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