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Pomelo peel-derived, N-doped biochar microspheres as an efficient and durable metal-free ORR catalyst in microbial fuel cells

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Abstract

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are widely explored for promising green and renewable energy generation; however, their strong reliance on noble metal-based catalysts causes high fabrication costs and thus limits their widespread applications. Herein, metal-free alternatives derived from naturally abundant, renewable pomelo peels are explored. Two kinds of pomelo peel-derived novel N-doped carbocatalysts are presented, i.e., biochar microspheres (BCMs) and their activated porous counterpart (a-BCMs). In comparison with BCMs, the thermal activation processing endowed a-BCMs with significantly enhanced porosity, an elevated N doping content (2.41 vs. 0.51 at%), a 5-fold increased specific surface area (314.3 vs. 62.8 m2 g−1), and a much improved electrical conductivity (0.13 vs. 0.006 S cm−1). This metal-free a-BCM catalyst is subsequently employed to construct an MFC cathode for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), and an impressive electrocatalytic activity is achieved in 0.1 mol L−1 phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) buffer. The maximum power density reaches as high as 907.2 mW m−2, comparable to that of the costly Pt/C counterpart (1022.9 mW m−2). The long-term durability of the a-BCM electrocatalyst is also demonstrated by continuous running for 90 days, even superior to that of Pt/C. The origin of this excellent electrocatalytic performance of a-BCMs is deeply analyzed and discussed. Furthermore, the 4e reduction pathway is also unraveled for the efficient and durable carbocatalysis of the ORR over a-BCMs in MFCs.

Graphical abstract: Pomelo peel-derived, N-doped biochar microspheres as an efficient and durable metal-free ORR catalyst in microbial fuel cells

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Publication details

The article was received on 21 Sep 2019, accepted on 11 Nov 2019 and first published on 12 Nov 2019


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C9SE00834A
Sustainable Energy Fuels, 2020, Advance Article

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    Pomelo peel-derived, N-doped biochar microspheres as an efficient and durable metal-free ORR catalyst in microbial fuel cells

    Y. Zhang, L. Deng, H. Hu, Y. Qiao, H. Yuan, D. Chen, M. Chang and H. Wei, Sustainable Energy Fuels, 2020, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/C9SE00834A

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