On the pH dependence of electrochemical proton transfer barriers

Jan Rossmeisl, Karen Chan, Egill Skulason, Mårten E. Björketun, Vladimir Tripkovic

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The pH dependence of rate of the hydrogen evolution/oxidation reaction HER/HOR is investigated. Based on thermodynamic considerations, a possible explanation to the low exchange current for hydrogen reactions in alkaline is put forward. We propose this effect to be a consequence of the change in configurational entropy of the proton as it approaches the surface. As a proton crosses the outer Helmholtz plane, it will lose a fraction of its entropy before it can interact with the electrode surface, which gives rise to an entropic barrier. The size of this barrier will depend on the electrostatic environment in the double layer region. The entropic barrier can be rate determining only when the surface catalysis is fast. Therefore the effect of pH is most pronounced on good catalysts and for fast reactions. This entropic barrier is also in a good agreement with the unusually low prefactor measured in experiments of good catalysts such as Pt. In such catalysts, the enthalpy barrier of 0.1-0.2. eV of the rate-determining step does not come from any of the surface reactions (Volmer, Tafel or Heyrovsky) but instead from the proton transfer into the outer Helmholtz layer.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCatalysis Today
Pages (from-to)36-40
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Charge transfer reaction
  • Entropic barrier
  • Hydrogen evolution/reduction


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