To significantly reduce the cost of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, current Pt must be replaced by platinum-metal-group (PGM)-free catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in acid [1-5]. We presented a new class of high-performance atomic iron carbon catalysts through controlled chemical doping of iron ions into zinc-zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF), a type of metal-organic framework (MOF). The novel synthetic chemistry enables accurate size control of Fe-doped ZIF catalyst particles with a wide range from 20 to 1000 nm without changing chemical properties, which provides a great opportunity to increase the density of active sites that is determined by the particle size. We elucidated the active site formation mechanism by correlating the chemical and structural changes with thermal activation process for the conversion from Fe-N4
complex containing hydrocarbon networks in ZIF to highly active FeNx
sites embedded into carbon. A temperature of 800o
C was identified as the critical point to start forming pyridinic nitrogen doping at the edge of the graphitized carbon planes. Further increasing heating temperature to 1100o
C leads to increase of graphitic nitrogen, generating possible synergistic effect with FeNx
sites to promote ORR activity. The best performing catalyst, which has well-defined particle size around 50 nm and abundance of atomic FeNx
sites embedded into carbon structures, achieve a new performance milestone for the ORR in challenging acidic media including a half-wave potential of 0.85 V vs
RHE. This has been approaching to Pt and holds great promise for future PEM fuel cells.
(1) H. Zhang, H. Osgood, X. Xie, Y. Shao and G. Wu, Nano Energy, 31, 331-350, 2017.
(2) G. Wu, A. Santandreu, W. Kellogg, S. Gupta, O. Ogoke, H. Zhang, H.-L. Wang and L. Dai, Nano Energy, 29, 83–110, 2016.
(3) S. Gupta, S. Zhao, O. Ogoke, Y. Lin, H. Xu and G. Wu, ChemSusChem, 10, 774–785, 2017.
(4) X.-J. Wang, H. Zhang, H. Lin, S. Gupta, C. Wang, Z. Tao, H. Fu, T. Wang, J. Zheng and G. Wu, Nano Energy, 25, 110–119, 2016.
(5) X. Wang, Q. Li, H. Pan, Y. Lin, Y. Ke, H. Sheng, M. T. Swihart and G. Wu, Nanoscale, 7, 20290-20298, 2016.