Strain-Enabled Local Phase Control in Layered MoTe2 for Enhanced Electrocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution

Youjin Lee, Soo Hyun Lee, Sun Kyung Han, Jiheon Park, Dongwook Lee, Daniel J. Preston, In Soo Kim, Mark C. Hersam, Yongwoo Kwon*, Bonggeun Shong*, Won Kyu Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Electrocatalytic water splitting produces hydrogen fuel, but its dependence on expensive platinum-based electrocatalysts has limited industrial-scale implementation. Here, we report an approach for the activation of electrochemically inert layered MoTe2 that results in a low-cost, scalable, and readily available hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) catalyst for water splitting. This approach relies on the transfer of mechanically exfoliated MoTe2 flakes to gold thin films on prestrained thermoplastic substrates. By relieving the prestrain, a tunable level of internal tensile strain is developed in the flakes as a result of spontaneously formed surface wrinkles, resulting in a local semiconductor-to-metal phase transition to form phase boundaries. This strain engineering enhances the HER performance of the MoTe2 with reduced charge transfer resistance, and in operando activation of the flakes further amplifies the electrochemical activity, rivaling that of platinum. Density functional theory calculations provide fundamental insight into how strain-induced heterophase boundaries promoted HER activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4716-4725
Number of pages10
JournalACS Energy Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 10 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Materials Chemistry


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