Electrocatalytic H2 production from seawater over Co, N-codoped nanocarbons†
One of the main barriers blocking sustainable hydrogen production is the use of expensive platinum-based catalysts to produce hydrogen from water. Herein we report the cost-effective synthesis of catalytically active, nitrogen-doped, cobalt-encased carbon nanotubes using inexpensive starting materials—urea and cobalt chloride hexahydrate (CoCl2·6H2O). Moreover, we show that the as-obtained nanocarbon material exhibits a remarkable electrocatalytic activity toward the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER); and thus it can be deemed as a potential alternative to noble metal HER catalysts. In particular, the urea-derived carbon nanotubes synthesized at 900 °C (denoted as U-CNT-900) show a superior catalytic activity for HER with low overpotential and high current density in our study. Notably also, U-CNT-900 has the ability to operate stably at all pH values (pH 0–14), and even in buffered seawater (pH 7). The possible synergistic effects between carbon-coated cobalt nanoparticles and the nitrogen dopants can be proposed to account for the HER catalytic activity of U-CNT-900. Given the high natural abundance, ease of synthesis, and high catalytic activity and durability in seawater, this U-CNT-900 material is promising for hydrogen production from water in industrial applications.