Fe-N-modified multi-walled carbon nanotubes for oxygen reduction reaction in acid

Hye Ryung Byon, Jin Suntivich, Ethan J Crumlin, Yang Shao-Horn
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics: PCCP 2011 December 28, 13 (48): 21437-45
We report a facile synthesis of Fe-N-C catalysts based on the surface functionalization of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs), which show high activity and stability for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in acid. Fe-N-MWCNT catalysts, whose ORR mass activities could vary by 3-4 times depending on the choice of Fe precursors, were found to have considerably higher ORR mass activity and higher stability than N-modified MWCNTs (N-MWCNTs). The Fe-N-MWCNT catalyst with a dominant Fe-N(x) moiety (with x ≈ 4) and a surface Fe/C ratio of ∼0.004 exhibits the highest ORR mass activity in acid (∼0.7 mA mg(-1)(Fe-N-MWCNT) at 0.8 V vs. RHE), where the lower mass activity of other Fe-N-MWCNT catalysts can be attributed to lower Fe/C ratios and Fe-N(x) moieties (with x smaller than 4) as revealed from X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy. Moreover, the enhanced stability of Fe-N-MWCNTs in comparison to N-MWCNTs can be attributed to less H(2)O(2) production during ORR as determined from rotating ring disk electrode (RRDE) measurements, and higher activity for H(2)O(2) electro-reduction by rotating disk electrode (RDE) measurements. The large surface Fe/C ratio and Fe-N(x) moiety corresponding to high ORR activity and stability of Fe-N-MWCNTs demonstrate that surface functionalization can be very helpful to graft active catalytic sites onto carbon nanostructures, and to provide insights into the ORR mechanism of non-noble metal catalysts (NNMCs) for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs).

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