Gas management during electrocatalytic water splitting is vital for improving the efficiency of clean hydrogen production. The accumulation of gas bubbles on electrode surfaces prevents electrolyte access and passivates the electrochemically active surface area. Electrode morphologies are sought to assist in the removal of gas from surfaces to achieve higher reaction rates at operational voltages. Herein, regular arrays of linear ridges with specific microscale separations were systematically studied and correlated to the performance of the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). The dimensions of the linear ridges were proportional to the size of the oxygen bubbles, and the mass transfer processes associated with gas evolution at these ridges were monitored using a high speed camera. Characterization of the adhered bubbles prior to detachment enabled the use of empirical methods to determine the volumetric flux of product gas and the bubble residence times. The linear ridges promoted a self-cleaning effect as one bubble would induce neighboring bubbles to simultaneously release from the electrode surfaces. The linear ridges also provided preferential bubble growth sites, which expedited the detachment of bubbles with similar diameters and shorter residence times. The linear ridges enhanced the OER in comparison to planar electrodes prepared by electrodeposition from the same high purity nickel (Ni). Linear ridges with a separation distance of 200 µm achieved nearly a two-fold increase in current density relative to the planar electrode at an operating voltage of 1.8 V (vs Hg/HgO). The electrodes with linear ridges having a separation distance of 200 µm also had the highest sustained current densities over a range of operating conditions for the OER. Self-cleaning surface morphologies could benefit a variety of electrocatalytic gas evolving reactions by improving the efficiency of these processes.
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