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Hydrogen evolution reaction catalyzed by ruthenium ion-complexed graphitic-like carbon nitride nanosheets


Development of cost-effective, high-performance electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) is urgently needed. In the present study, a new type of HER catalysts was developed where ruthenium ions were embedded into the molecular skeletons of graphitic-like carbon nitride (C3N4) nanosheets of 2.0 ± 0.4 nm in thickness by refluxing C3N4 and RuCl3 in water. This took advantage of the strong affinity of ruthenium ions to pyridinic nitrogen of the tri-s-triazine units of C3N4. The formation of C3N4-Ru nanocomposites was confirmed in optical and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic measurements, which suggested charge transfer from the C3N4 scaffold to the ruthenium centers. Significantly, the hybrid materials were readily dispsersible in water, exhibited apparent electrocatalytic activity towards HER in acid and the activity increased with the loading of ruthenium metal centers in the C3N4 matrix. Within the present experimental context, the sample saturated with ruthenium ion complexation at the atomic ratio of ruthenium to pyridinic nitrogen of ca. 1:2 displayed the best performance, with an overpotential of only 140 mV to achieve the current density of 10 mA/cm2, a low Tafel slope of 57 mV/dec, and a large exchange current density of 0.072 mA/cm2. The activity was markedly lower when C3N4 was embedded with other metal ions such as Fe3+, Co3+, Ni3+ and Cu2+. This suggests minimal contributions from the C3N4 nanosheets to the HER activity, and the activity was most likely due to the formation of Ru-N moieties where the synergistic interactions between the carbon nitride and ruthenium metal centers facilitated the adsorption of hydrogen. This was strongly supported by results from density functional theory calculations.

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Publication details

The article was received on 03 May 2017, accepted on 31 Jul 2017 and first published on 02 Aug 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7TA03826G
Citation: J. Mater. Chem. A, 2017, Accepted Manuscript
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    Hydrogen evolution reaction catalyzed by ruthenium ion-complexed graphitic-like carbon nitride nanosheets

    Y. Peng, B. Lu, L. Chen, N. Wang, J. E. Lu, Y. Ping and S. Chen, J. Mater. Chem. A, 2017, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C7TA03826G

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