Top-down synthesis of polyoxometalate-like sub-nanometer molybdenum-oxo clusters as high-performance electrocatalysts†
The top-down fabrication of catalytically active molecular metal oxide anions, or polyoxometalates, is virtually unexplored, although these materials offer unique possibilities, for catalysis, energy conversion and storage. Here, we report a novel top-down route, which enables the scalable synthesis and deposition of sub-nanometer molybdenum-oxo clusters on electrically conductive mesoporous carbon. The new approach uses a unique redox-cycling process to convert crystalline MoIVO2 particles into sub-nanometer molecular molybdenum-oxo clusters with a nuclearity of ∼1–20. The resulting molybdenum-oxo cluster/carbon composite shows outstanding, stable electrocatalytic performance for the oxygen reduction reaction with catalyst characteristics comparable to those of commercial Pt/C. This new material design could give access to a new class of highly reactive polyoxometalate-like metal oxo clusters as high-performance, earth abundant (electro-)catalysts.