Making the Most of a Scarce Platinum-Group Metal: Conductive Ruthenia Nanoskins on Insulating Silica Paper

Subambient thermal decomposition of ruthenium tetroxide from nonaqueous solution onto porous SiO2 substrates creates 2−3 nm thick coatings of RuO2 that cover the convex silica walls comprising the open, porous structure. The physical properties of the resultant self-wired nanoscale ruthenia significantly differ depending on the nature of the porous support. Previously reported RuO2-modified SiO2 aerogels display electron conductivity of 5 × 10−4 S cm−1 (as normalized to the geometric factor of the insulating substrate, not the conducting ruthenia phase), whereas RuO2-modified silica filter paper at ∼5 wt % RuO2 exhibits ∼0.5 S cm−1. Electron conduction through the ruthenia phase as examined from −160 to 260 °C requires minimal activation energy, only 8 meV, from 20 to 260 °C. The RuO2(SiO2) fiber membranes are electrically addressable, capable of supporting fast electron-transfer reactions, express an electrochemical surface area of ∼90 m2 g−1 RuO2, and exhibit energy storage in which 90% of the total electron−proton charge is stored at the outer surface of the ruthenia phase. The electrochemical capacitive response indicates that the nanocrystalline RuO2 coating can be considered to be a single-unit-thick layer of the conductive oxide, as physically stabilized by the supporting silica fiber.