We present a detailed study of a novel Fe3C-based spherical catalyst with respect to synthetic parameters, nanostructure formation, ORR active sites and fuel cell demonstration. The catalyst is synthesized by high temperature autoclave pyrolysis using decomposing precursors. Below 500 °C, melamine-rich microspheres are first developed with uniformly dispersed amorphous Fe species. During the following pyrolysis at temperatures from 600 to 660 °C, a small amount of Fe3C phase with possible Fe–Nx/Cactive sites are formed, however, with moderate catalytic activity, likely limited by the low conductivity of the catalyst. At high pyrolytic temperatures of 700–800 °C, simultaneous formation of Fe3Cnanoparticles and encasing graphitic layers occur within the morphological confinement of the microspheres. With negligible surface nitrogen or iron functionality, the thus-obtained catalysts exhibit superior ORR activity and stability. A new ORR active phase of Fe3C nanoparticles encapsulated by thin graphitic layers is proposed. The activity and durability of the catalysts are demonstrated in both Nafion-based low temperature and acid doped polybenzimidazole-based high temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cells.
Hu, Y., Jensen, J. O., Zhang, W., Fernandez, S. M., Chenitz, R., Pan, C., Xing, W., Bjerrum, N. J., & Li, Q. (2015). Fe3C-based oxygen reduction catalysts: synthesis, hollow spherical structures and applications in fuel cells. Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 3, 1752-1760. https://doi.org/10.1039/c4ta03986f