Evaluation of ORR active sites in nitrogen-doped carbon nanofibers by KOH post treatment
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionCatalysis Today. 2018, 301 11-16. 10.1016/j.cattod.2017.03.045
Oxygen reduction on N-doped carbon nanomaterials is believed to take place at either N-centered active sites (C-Nx) or Fe-centered active sites (Fe-Nx). In this work the origin of the oxygen reduction on nitrogen-doped carbon nanofibers (N-CNFs) is investigated by removing nitrogen and iron from the N-CNF surface using high temperature KOH treatment. The activities for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in 0.5 M H2SO4 are correlated with the XPS results and discussed with respect to the contribution from C-Nx and Fe-Nx active sites. Increasing the time and temperature of the KOH treatment decreased the iron and nitrogen content at the N-CNF surface. The contribution from Fe-Nx active sites was found to be minor compared to the C-Nx active sites as the KOH-treated N-CNFs with no iron in the surface still showed considerable ORR activity. Furthermore, the activity was maintained when the fraction of pyridinic-N was greatly reduced compared to quaternary-N. Finally, even when no iron or nitrogen could be detected by XPS, 50% of the initial oxygen reduction activity of the N-CNFs persisted. It is therefore suggested that there are active sites not originating from iron or nitrogen atoms, but rather from a distinct carbon environment.