Hydrogen evolution by a metal-free electrocatalyst

Nat Commun. 2014 Apr 28;5:3783. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4783.


Electrocatalytic reduction of water to molecular hydrogen via the hydrogen evolution reaction may provide a sustainable energy supply for the future, but its commercial application is hampered by the use of precious platinum catalysts. All alternatives to platinum thus far are based on nonprecious metals, and, to our knowledge, there is no report about a catalyst for electrocatalytic hydrogen evolution beyond metals. Here we couple graphitic-carbon nitride with nitrogen-doped graphene to produce a metal-free hybrid catalyst, which shows an unexpected hydrogen evolution reaction activity with comparable overpotential and Tafel slope to some of well-developed metallic catalysts. Experimental observations in combination with density functional theory calculations reveal that its unusual electrocatalytic properties originate from an intrinsic chemical and electronic coupling that synergistically promotes the proton adsorption and reduction kinetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Catalysis
  • Electrochemistry / methods*
  • Graphite / chemistry
  • Hydrogen / chemistry*
  • Kinetics
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nitriles / chemistry
  • Nitrogen / chemistry
  • Photoelectron Spectroscopy
  • Water / chemistry*
  • X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy


  • Nitriles
  • Water
  • cyanogen
  • Graphite
  • Hydrogen
  • Nitrogen