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Single-Atom Co–N4 Electrocatalyst Enabling Four-Electron Oxygen Reduction with Enhanced Hydrogen Peroxide Tolerance for Selective Sensing

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journal contribution
posted on 21.09.2020 by Fei Wu, Cong Pan, Chun-Ting He, Yunhu Han, Wenjie Ma, Huan Wei, Wenliang Ji, Wenxing Chen, Junjie Mao, Ping Yu, Dingsheng Wang, Lanqun Mao, Yadong Li
Electrocatalysis of the four-electron oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) provides a promising approach for energy conversion, storage, and oxygen monitoring. However, it is always accompanied by the reduction of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) on most employed catalysts, which brings down the electrocatalytic selectivity. Here, we report a single-atom Co–N4 electrocatalyst for the four-electron ORR at an onset potential of 0.68 V (vs RHE) in neutral media while with high H2O2 tolerance, outperforming commercial Pt electrocatalysts. Electrochemical kinetic analysis confirms that the Co–N4 catalytic sites dominantly promote the direct four-electron pathway of the ORR rather than the two sequential two-electron reduction pathways with H2O2 as the intermediate. Density functional theory calculations reveal that H2O2 reduction is hampered by the weak adsorption of H2O2 on the porphyrin-like Co centers. This endows the electrocatalyst with improved resistance to current interference from H2O2, enabling highly selective O2 sensing as validated by the reliable sensing performance in vivo. Our study demonstrates the intriguing advantage of single-atom catalysts with high capacity for tailoring metal–adsorbate interactions, broadening their applications in environmental and life monitoring.