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Quaternary FeCoNiMn-Based Nanocarbon Electrocatalysts for Bifunctional Oxygen Reduction and Evolution: Promotional Role of Mn Doping in Stabilizing Carbon

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journal contribution
posted on 31.10.2017 by Shiva Gupta, Shuai Zhao, Xiao Xia Wang, Sooyeon Hwang, Stavros Karakalos, Surya V. Devaguptapu, Shreya Mukherjee, Dong Su, Hui Xu, Gang Wu
The intrinsic instability of carbon largely limits its use for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER) as a bifunctional catalyst in reversible fuel cells or water electrolyzers. Herein, we discovered that Mn doping has a promotional role in stabilizing nanocarbon catalysts for the ORR/OER in alkaline media. Stable nanocarbon composites are derived from an inexpensive carbon/nitrogen precursor (i.e., dicyandiamide) and quaternary FeCoNiMn alloy via a template-free carbonization process. In addition to FeCoNiMn metal alloys/oxides, the carbon composites comprise substantial carbon tube forests growing on a thick and dense graphitic substrate. The dense carbon substrate with high degree of graphitization results from Mn doping, while active nitrogen-doped carbon tubes stem from FeCoNi. Catalyst structures and performance are greatly dependent on the doping content of Mn. Various accelerated stress tests (AST) and life tests verify the encouraging ORR/OER stability of the nanocarbon composite catalyst with optimal Mn doping. Extensive characterization before and after ASTs elucidates the mechanism of stability enhancement resulting from Mn doping, which is attributed to (i) hybrid carbon nanostructures with enhanced resistance to oxidation and (ii) the in situ formation of the β-MnO2 and FeCoNi-based oxides capable of preventing carbon corrosion and promoting activity. Note that the improvement in stability due to Mn doping is accompanied by a slight activity loss due to a decrease in surface area. This work provides a strategy to stabilize carbon catalysts by appropriately integrating transition metals and engineering carbon structures.