Strongly coupled inorganic/nanocarbon hybrid materials for advanced electrocatalysis

J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Feb 13;135(6):2013-36. doi: 10.1021/ja3089923. Epub 2013 Feb 4.


Electrochemical systems, such as fuel cell and water splitting devices, represent some of the most efficient and environmentally friendly technologies for energy conversion and storage. Electrocatalysts play key roles in the chemical processes but often limit the performance of the entire systems due to insufficient activity, lifetime, or high cost. It has been a long-standing challenge to develop efficient and durable electrocatalysts at low cost. In this Perspective, we present our recent efforts in developing strongly coupled inorganic/nanocarbon hybrid materials to improve the electrocatalytic activities and stability of inorganic metal oxides, hydroxides, sulfides, and metal-nitrogen complexes. The hybrid materials are synthesized by direct nucleation, growth, and anchoring of inorganic nanomaterials on the functional groups of oxidized nanocarbon substrates including graphene and carbon nanotubes. This approach affords strong chemical attachment and electrical coupling between the electrocatalytic nanoparticles and nanocarbon, leading to nonprecious metal-based electrocatalysts with improved activity and durability for the oxygen reduction reaction for fuel cells and chlor-alkali catalysis, oxygen evolution reaction, and hydrogen evolution reaction. X-ray absorption near-edge structure and scanning transmission electron microscopy are employed to characterize the hybrids materials and reveal the coupling effects between inorganic nanomaterials and nanocarbon substrates. Z-contrast imaging and electron energy loss spectroscopy at single atom level are performed to investigate the nature of catalytic sites on ultrathin graphene sheets. Nanocarbon-based hybrid materials may present new opportunities for the development of electrocatalysts meeting the requirements of activity, durability, and cost for large-scale electrochemical applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Catalysis
  • Electric Power Supplies
  • Electrochemical Techniques
  • Hydroxides / chemistry*
  • Metals / chemistry*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry*
  • Nitrogen / chemistry*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxides / chemistry*
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Sulfides / chemistry*


  • Hydroxides
  • Metals
  • Nanotubes, Carbon
  • Oxides
  • Sulfides
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen