Identification of active sites for acidic oxygen reduction on carbon catalysts with and without nitrogen doping
Owing to the difficulty in controlling the dopant or defect types and their homogeneity in carbon materials, it is still a controversial issue to identify the active sites of carbon-based metal-free catalysts. Here we report a proof-of-concept study on the active-site evaluation for a highly oriented pyrolytic graphite catalyst with specific pentagon carbon defective patterns (D-HOPG). It is demonstrated that specific carbon defect types (an edged pentagon in this work) could be selectively created via controllable nitrogen doping. Work-function analyses coupled with macro and micro-electrochemical performance measurements suggest that the pentagon defects in D-HOPG served as major active sites for the acidic oxygen reduction reaction, even much superior to the pyridinic nitrogen sites in nitrogen-doped highly oriented pyrolytic graphite. This work enables us to elucidate the relative importance of the specific carbon defects versus nitrogen-dopant species and their respective contributions to the observed overall acidic oxygen reduction reaction activity.