A general route via formamide condensation to prepare atomically dispersed metal–nitrogen–carbon electrocatalysts for energy technologies†
Single-atom electrocatalysts (SAECs) have gained tremendous attention due to their unique active sites and strong metal–substrate interactions. However, the current synthesis of SAECs mostly relies on costly precursors and rigid synthetic conditions and often results in very low content of single-site metal atoms. Herein, we report an efficient synthesis method to prepare metal–nitrogen–carbon SAECs based on formamide condensation and carbonization, featuring a cost-effective general methodology for the mass production of SAECs with high loading of atomically dispersed metal sites. The products with metal inclusion were termed as formamide-converted metal–nitrogen–carbon (shortened as f-MNC) materials. Seven types of single-metallic f-MNC (Fe, Co, Ni, Mn, Zn, Mo and Ir), two bi-metallic (ZnFe and ZnCo) and one tri-metallic (ZnFeCo) SAECs were synthesized to demonstrate the generality of the methodology developed. Remarkably, these f-MNC SAECs can be coated onto various supports with an ultrathin layer as pyrolysis-free electrocatalysts, among which the carbon nanotube-supported f-FeNC and f-NiNC SAECs showed high performance for the O2 reduction reaction (ORR) and the CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR), respectively. Furthermore, the pyrolysis products of supported f-MNC can still render isolated metallic sites with excellent activity, as exemplified by the bi-metallic f-FeCoNC SAEC, which exhibited outstanding ORR performance in both alkaline and acid electrolytes by delivering ∼70 and ∼20 mV higher half-wave potentials than that of commercial 20 wt% Pt/C, respectively. This work offers a feasible approach to design and manufacture SAECs with tuneable atomic metal components and high density of single-site metal loading, and thus may accelerate the deployment of SAECs for various energy technology applications.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2019 Energy and Environmental Science HOT Articles