The Role of Oxygenic Groups and sp3 Carbon Hybridization in Activated Graphite Electrodes for Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries

Ali Hassan, Asnake Sahele Haile, Theodore Tzedakis, Heine Anton Hansen, Piotr de Silva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Graphite felt is a widely used electrode material for vanadium redox flow batteries. Electrode activation leads to the functionalization of the graphite surface with epoxy, OH, C=O, and COOH oxygenic groups and changes the carbon surface morphology and electronic structure, thereby improving the electrode's electroactivity relative to the untreated graphite. In this study, density functional theory (DFT) calculations are conducted to evaluate functionalization's contribution towards the positive half-cell reaction of the vanadium redox flow battery. The DFT calculations show that oxygenic groups improve the graphite felt's affinity towards the VO2+/VO2+ redox couple in the following order: C=O>COOH>OH> basal plane. Projected density-of-states (PDOS) calculations show that these groups increase the electrode's sp3 hybridization in the same order, indicating that the increase in sp3 hybridization is responsible for the improved electroactivity, whereas the oxygenic groups’ presence is responsible for this sp3 increment. These insights can aid the selection of activation processes and optimization of their parameters.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Vanadium
  • Batteries
  • Electrode materials
  • Density functional theory
  • Carbon


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