Defining the transfer coefficient in electrochemistry: An assessment (IUPAC Technical Report)

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Title: Defining the transfer coefficient in electrochemistry: An assessment (IUPAC Technical Report)
Authors: Guidelli, Rolando | Compton, Richard G. | Feliu, Juan M. | Gileadi, Eliezer | Lipkowski, Jacek | Schmickler, Wolfgang | Trasatti, Sergio
Research Group/s: Electroquímica de Superficies
Center, Department or Service: Universidad de Alicante. Departamento de Química Física | Universidad de Alicante. Instituto Universitario de Electroquímica
Keywords: Electrode kinetics | IUPAC Physical and Biophysical Chemistry Division | Reorganization energy | Symmetry factor | Tafel slope | Transfer coefficient
Knowledge Area: Química Física
Issue Date: 18-Jan-2014
Publisher: De Gruyter | IUPAC
Citation: Pure and Applied Chemistry. 2014, 86(2): 245-258. doi:10.1515/pac-2014-5026
Abstract: The transfer coefficient α is a quantity that is commonly employed in the kinetic investigation of electrode processes. In the 3rd edition of the IUPAC Green Book, the cathodic transfer coefficient αc is defined as –(RT/nF)(dlnkc/dE), where kc is the electroreduction rate constant, E is the applied potential, and R, T, and F have their usual significance. This definition is equivalent to the other, -(RT/nF)(dln|jc|/dE), where jc is the cathodic current density corrected for any changes in the reactant concentration at the electrode surface with respect to its bulk value. The anodic transfer coefficient αa is defined similarly, by simply replacing jc with the anodic current density ja and the minus sign with the plus sign. It is shown that this definition applies only to an electrode reaction that consists of a single elementary step involving the simultaneous uptake of n electrons from the electrode in the case of αc, or their release to the electrode in the case of αa. However, an elementary step involving the simultaneous release or uptake of more than one electron is regarded as highly improbable in view of the absolute rate theory of electron transfer of Marcus; the hardly satisfiable requirements for the occurrence of such an event are examined. Moreover, the majority of electrode reactions do not consist of a single elementary step; rather, they are multistep, multi-electron processes. The uncritical application of the above definitions of αc and αa has led researchers to provide unwarranted mechanistic interpretations of electrode reactions. In fact, the only directly measurable experimental quantity is dln|j|/dE, which can be made dimensionless upon multiplication by RT/F, yielding (RT/F)(dln|j|/dE). One common source of misinterpretation consists in setting this experimental quantity equal to αn, according to the above definition of the transfer coefficient, and in trying to estimate n from αn, upon ascribing an arbitrary value to α, often close to 0.5. The resulting n value is then identified with the number of electrons involved in a hypothetical rate-determining step or with that involved in the overall electrode reaction. A few examples of these unwarranted mechanistic interpretations are reported. In view of the above considerations, it is proposed to define the cathodic and anodic transfer coefficients by the quantities αc = –(RT/F)(dln|jc|/dE) and αa = (RT/F)(dlnja/dE), which are independent of any mechanistic consideration.
ISSN: 0033-4545 (Print) | 1365-3075 (Online)
DOI: 10.1515/pac-2014-5026
Language: eng
Type: info:eu-repo/semantics/article
Rights: © 2014 IUPAC & De Gruyter
Peer Review: si
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Appears in Collections:INV - EQSUP - Artículos de Revistas

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