Impacts of interfacial charge transfer on nanoparticle electrocatalytic activity towards oxygen reduction
Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells represent a next-generation power supply technology that may be used in a diverse range of applications. Towards this end, the rational design and engineering of functional nanomaterials as low-cost, high-performance catalysts is of critical significance in the wide-spread commercialization of fuel cell technology. One major bottleneck is the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) at the cathode. Whereas platinum-based nanoparticles have been used as the catalysts of choice, further engineering of the nanoparticles is urgently needed to enhance the catalytic performance and concurrently reduce the costs. Extensive research has also been extended to non-platinum metals or even metal-free nanocatalysts that may be viable alternatives to platinum. In this review article, we will summarize recent progress in these areas of research within the context of interfacial electron transfer: (a) interactions between metal elements in alloy nanoparticles, (b) metal–ligand interfacial bonding interactions, (c) metal–carbon substrate interactions, and (d) heteroatom doping of graphitic carbons. Results have shown that ready manipulation of the electronic interactions between the catalyst surface and oxygen species may serve as a fundamental mechanism for the optimization of the catalytic performance.