Research ArticleFUNCTIONAL CARBONS

Gelatin-derived sustainable carbon-based functional materials for energy conversion and storage with controllability of structure and component

Science Advances  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 1, e1400035
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400035

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Abstract

Nonprecious carbon catalysts and electrodes are vital components in energy conversion and storage systems. Despite recent progress, controllable synthesis of carbon functional materials is still a great challenge. We report a novel strategy to prepare simultaneously Fe-N-C catalysts and Fe3O4/N-doped carbon hybrids based on the sol-gel chemistry of gelatin and iron with controllability of structure and component. The catalysts demonstrate higher catalytic activity and better durability for oxygen reduction than precious Pt/C catalysts. The active sites of FeN4/C (D1) and N-FeN2+2/C (D3) are identified by Mössbauer spectroscopy, and most of the Fe ions are converted into D1 or D3 species. The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) activity correlates well with the surface area, porosity, and the content of active Fe-Nx /C (D1 + D3) species. As an anode material for lithium storage, Fe3O4/carbon hybrids exhibit superior rate capability and excellent cycling performance. The synthetic approach and the proposed mechanism open new avenues for the development of sustainable carbon-based functional materials.

Keywords
  • carbon materials
  • gelatin
  • non-precious catalysts
  • oxygen reduction reaction
  • lithium storage

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