Achieving an exceptionally high loading of isolated cobalt single atoms on a porous carbon matrix for efficient visible-light-driven photocatalytic hydrogen production†
Single-atom catalysts (SACs) have shown great potential in a wide variety of chemical reactions and become the most active new frontier in catalysis due to the maximum efficiency of metal atom use. The key obstacle in preparing SAs lies in the development of appropriate supports that can avoid aggregation or sintering during synthetic procedures. As such, achieving high loadings of isolated SAs is nontrivial and challenging. Conventional methods usually afford the formation of SAs with extremely low loadings (less than 1.5 wt%). In this work, a new in situ preparation strategy that enables the synthesis of isolated cobalt (Co) SAs with an exceptionally high metal loading, up to 5.9 wt%, is developed. The approach is based on a simple one-step pyrolysis of a nitrogen-enriched molecular carbon precursor (1,4,5,8,9,12-hexaazatriphenylene hexacarbonitrile) and CoCl2. Furthermore, due to the successful electron transfer from carbon nitride to the isolated Co SAs, we demonstrate a high-performance photocatalytic H2 production using Co SAs as a co-catalyst, and the evolution rate is measured to be 1180 μmol g−1 h−1. We anticipate that this new study will inspire the discovery of more isolated SACs with high metal loadings, evidently advancing the development of this emerging type of advanced catalysts.