Binary Ni-C thin-film alloys, which have been shown to be passive against corrosion in hot sulphuric acid solution whilst also being electrocatalytically active, were investigated by XPS to determine the oxidation state of the metal and carbon components. The Ni component produces a Ni 2p spectrum similar to that of metallic nickel (i.e., no oxidation occurs) but with a 0.3 eV shift to higher binding energy (BE) due to electron donation to the carbon matrix. The C 1s peak shows a shift to lower BE by accepting electrons from the Ni nanocrystals. A cluster-model analysis of the observed Ni 2p spectrum is consistent with the electron transfer from the nickel to the carbon.
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