Transformation of worst weed into N-, S-, and P-tridoped carbon nanorings as metal-free electrocatalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction†
Substituting sustainable/cost-effective catalysts for scarce and costly metal ones is currently among the major targets of sustainable chemistry. Herein, we report the synthesis of N-, S-, and P-tridoped worst-weed-derived carbon nanorings (WWCNRs) that can serve as a metal-free and selective electrocatalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). The WWCNRs are synthesized via activation-free polymerization of worst weed, Eclipta prostrata, and then removal of the metallic residues by using HCl. The WWCNRs exhibit good catalytic activity towards the 4 electron-transfer ORR with a low onset potential and high kinetic limiting current density, along with high selectivity (introducing CO, the sample loses only <7% of its original activity, in contrast to more than 30% loss of the original activity for 20 wt% Pt/C over 4000 s of the continuous ORR) and long durability (94% of the initial current still persists at the sample electrode compared with a 87% current retention at commercial Pt/C electrodes after 18 000 s). The present work highlights the smart transformation of organic-rich worst weed into value-added functional materials with great potential for applications such as fuel cells, lithium–air batteries, photocatalysis, and heterocatalysis.