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Enhanced Bifunctional Oxygen Catalysis in Strained LaNiO3 Perovskites

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Enhanced Bifunctional Oxygen Catalysis in Strained LaNiO3 Perovskites
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Strain is known to greatly influence low-temperature oxygen electrocatalysis on noble metal films, leading to significant enhancements in bifunctional activity essential for fuel cells and metal-air batteries. However, its catalytic impact on transition-metal oxide thin films, such as perovskites, is not widely understood. Here, we epitaxially strain the conducting perovskite LaNiO3 to systematically determine its influence on both the oxygen reduction and oxygen evolution reaction. Uniquely, we found that compressive strain could significantly enhance both reactions, yielding a bifunctional catalyst that surpasses the performance of noble metals such as Pt. We attribute the improved bifunctionality to strain-induced splitting of the eg orbitals, which can customize orbital asymmetry at the surface. Analogous to strain-induced shifts in the d-band center of noble metals relative to the Fermi level, such splitting can dramatically affect catalytic activity in this perovskite and other potentially more active oxides.