Easy conversion of protein-rich enoki mushroom biomass to a nitrogen-doped carbon nanomaterial as a promising metal-free catalyst for oxygen reduction reaction

Chaozhong Guo, Wenli Liao, Zhongbin Li, Lingtao Sun, Changguo Chen
Nanoscale 2015 October 14, 7 (38): 15990-8
The search for low-cost, highly active, and stable catalysts to replace the Pt-based catalysts for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) has recently become a topic of interest. Herein, we report a new strategy to design a nitrogen-doped carbon nanomaterial for use as a metal-free ORR catalyst based on facile pyrolysis of protein-rich enoki mushroom (Flammulina velutipes) biomass at 900 °C with carbon nanotubes as a conductive agent and inserting matrix. We found that various forms of nitrogen (nitrile, pyrrolic and graphitic) were incorporated into the carbon molecular skeleton of the product, which exhibited more excellent ORR electrocatalytic activity and better durability in alkaline medium than those in acidic medium. Remarkably, the ORR half-wave potential measured on our material was around 0.81 V in alkaline medium, slightly lower than that on the commercial 20 wt% Pt/C catalyst (0.86 V). Meanwhile, the ORR followed the desired 4-electron transfer mechanism involving the direct reduction pathway. The ORR performance was also markedly better than or at least comparable to the leading results in the literature based on biomass-derived carbon-based catalysts. Besides, we significantly proposed that the graphitic-nitrogen species that is most responsible for the ORR activity can function as the electrocatalytically active center for ORR, and the pyrrolic-nitrogen species can act as an effective promoter for ORR only. The results suggested a promising route based on economical and sustainable fungi biomass towards the large-scale production of valuable carbon nanomaterials as highly active and stable metal-free catalysts for ORR under alkaline conditions.

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