Exploiting metal-free catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and understanding their catalytic mechanisms are vital for the development of fuel cells (FCs). Our study has demonstrated that in-plane heterostructures of graphene and boron nitride (G/BN) can serve as an efficient metal-free catalyst for the ORR, in which the C-N interfaces of G/BN heterostructures act as reactive sites. The formation of water at the heterointerface is both energetically and kinetically favorable via a four-electron pathway. Moreover, the water formed can be easily released from the heterointerface, and the catalytically active sites can be regenerated for the next cycle. Since G/BN heterostructures with controlled domain sizes have been successfully synthesized in recent reports (e.g. Nat. Nanotechnol., 2013, 8, 119), our results highlight the great potential of such heterostructures as a promising metal-free catalyst for the ORR in FCs.
Available for download on Tuesday, June 27, 2017