Cobalt-carbon nanofibers as an efficient support-free catalyst for oxygen reduction reaction with a systematic study of active site formation
Recently, major efforts have been devoted to exploring cheap and active non-precious metal catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells for large-scale applications. Herein, we report electrospun cobalt-carbon nanofibers (Co-CNFs) as an efficient catalyst for the ORR, together with a systematic study of the active site formation. The ORR activity of the Co-CNFs increases with increasing Co content up to approximately 30 wt%, at which high ORR activity is exhibited, comparable with a commercial Pt/C catalyst in alkaline media. XPS and structural analysis reveals a Co–pyridinic Nx bond at the edge plane, and more Co nanoparticles were found in the Co-CNFs as the Co content was increased. These sites can behave as the primary and the secondary active sites for the ORR, according to a dual-site mechanism. The ORR activity of the Co-CNFs may deteriorate even if only one of these sites is limited. The high ORR activity of the Co-CNF catalysts results from the synergetic effect of dual site formation for the ORR.