(280d) Oxygen Reduction Reaction over a Novel 3D Pt-Supported Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanofiber

Xu, J., Kansas State University
Liu, B., Kansas State University
Li, J., Kansas State University
Elangovan, A., Kansas State University
For both proton exchange membrane and direct methanol fuel cells, oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is a critical, performance-determining step. While Pt has been established as a standard bearer in the field of ORR catalyst development, practical long-term applications require continuing effort to pursue active, stable, as well as affordable materials as alternatives to precious metals.

In this talk, carbon-based vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (VACNFs), essentially a stack of conical graphitic structures, will be discussed as highly promising ORR catalysts. In alkaline medium, at -0.4 V applied potential, the current density measured on VACNF cathode is twice more than that measured with commercial Pt catalyst (Pt/C). Molecular insights have been gained through the use of Density functional theory (DFT) calculations to: (1) reveal interactions of ORR intermediate species at the catalytically active sites; and (2) elucidate the origin of catalytic activities of VACNF under reaction conditions. Specifically, semi-periodic fishbone-like stacked graphene sheets, bare or terminated with H and OH, have been employed to understand the impact on ORR mechanism and corresponding reactivities. Bindings of O2, O, and OH at various configurations obtained from DFT are then used as descriptors to assess catalyst performance against simple Pt (111) and Pt (211) surfaces.

In addition, Pt nanocatalysts supported on VACNF (Pt/VACNF), which can push the ORR current density even higher, will be discussed as well. Again, with DFT, a model with Pt anchored at the VACNF edges was proposed to investigate the functionalities of Pt/VACNF for alkaline ORR reactions. In this talk, both associative and dissociative ORR pathways will be analyzed based on the established models. In particular, the overall computed ORR thermodynamics are shown to be favored toward Pt/VACNF than Pt (111), consistent with experimental results. Nevertheless, the unique interactions of ORR intermediates such as O*, OOH*, and OH* with catalytic active VACNF edge sites, revealed by DFT calculations, suggest intriguing but also complex electrochemistries.