Electrocatalytic oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalyzed by non-precious metals and their compounds in alkaline medium is an attractive area of energy research for the generation of hydrogen from water. The 3d transition metals, particularly, Ni and Co show better OER activity than others in alkaline medium. Ni and Co based oxygen-evolving catalysts (OECs) experience an enormous enhancement in the OER activity either by incidental or intentional Fe doping/incorporation. To account for this, different roles of Fe that it exerts when incorporated into these OECs are reported to be responsible. Unfortunately, the conclusions drawn in many related studies are often contradictory to one another. Important contradictory conclusions are: 1) a few studies claim Fe is the active site and Ni/Co are inactive while other studies claim Ni/Co and Fe act together in OER, 2) a few studies claim Fe3+ stays unoxidized while a few shows evidence for the existence of Fe4+, and 3) a few studies suggest Fe3+ is the faster site in Ni/Co OEC matrices for OER but fail to explain similar effects observed with other OER matrices. Many critical experimental and theoretical investigations have been made recently to reveal this magical Fe effect and the results of those studies are coherently presented here with critical discussion. This review is presented as it is inevitable to know the critical roles of Fe effect in Ni/Co based OECs to succeed in energy efficient hydrogen generation in alkaline medium.
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