Low-Coordinate Step Atoms via Plasma-Assisted Calcinations to Enhance Electrochemical Reduction of Nitrogen to Ammonia
© 2020 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim The electrochemical N2 reduction reaction (NRR) is emerging as a promising alternative to the industrial Haber–Bosch process for distributed and modular production of NH3. Nevertheless, developing high-efficiency catalysts to simultaneously realize both high activity and selectivity for the development of a sustainable NRR is very critical but extremely challenging. Here, a unique plasma-assisted strategy is developed to synthesize iridium diphosphide nanocrystals with abundant surface step atoms anchored in P,N-codoped porous carbon nanofilms (IrP2@PNPC-NF), where the edges of the IrP2 nanocrystals are extremely irregular, and the ultrathin PNPC-NF possesses a honeycomb-like macroporous structure. These characteristics ensure that IrP2@PNPC-NF delivers superior NRR performance with an NH3 yield rate of 94.0 µg h−1 mg−1cat. and a faradaic efficiency (FE) of 17.8%. Density functional theory calculations reveal that the unique NRR performance originates from the low-coordinate step atoms on the edges of IrP2 nanocrystals, which can lower the reaction barrier to improve the NRR activity and simultaneously inhibit hydrogen evolution to achieve a high FE for NH3 formation. More importantly, such a plasma-assisted strategy is general and can be extended to the synthesis of other high-melting-point noble-metal phosphides (OsP2@PNPC-NF, Re3P4@PNPC-NF, etc.) with abundant step atoms at lower temperatures.