Phenylenediamine-based FeN(x)/C catalyst with high activity for oxygen reduction in acid medium and its active-site probing

J Am Chem Soc. 2014 Aug 6;136(31):10882-5. doi: 10.1021/ja505777v. Epub 2014 Jul 23.


High-temperature pyrolyzed FeN(x)/C catalyst is one of the most promising nonprecious metal electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). However, it suffers from two challenging problems: insufficient ORR activity and unclear active site structure. Herein, we report a FeN(x)/C catalyst derived from poly-m-phenylenediamine (PmPDA-FeN(x)/C) that possesses high ORR activity (11.5 A g(-1) at 0.80 V vs RHE) and low H2O2 yield (<1%) in acid medium. The PmPDA-FeN(x)/C also exhibits high catalytic activity for both reduction and oxidation of H2O2. We further find that the ORR activity of PmPDA-FeN(x)/C is not sensitive to CO and NO(x) but can be suppressed significantly by halide ions (e.g., Cl(-), F(-), and Br(-)) and low valence state sulfur-containing species (e.g., SCN(-), SO2, and H2S). This result reveals that the active sites of the FeN(x)/C catalyst contains Fe element (mainly as Fe(III) at high potentials) in acid medium.