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Nanostructured Metal-Free Electrochemical Catalysts for Highly Efficient Oxygen Reduction



Replacing precious and nondurable Pt catalysts with cheap and commercially available materials to facilitate sluggish cathodic oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is a key issue in the development of fuel cell technology. The recently developed cost effective and highly stable metal-free catalysts reveal comparable catalytic activity and significantly better fuel tolerance than that of current Pt-based catalysts; therefore, they can serve as feasible Pt alternatives for the next generation of ORR electrocatalysts. Their promising electrocatalytic properties and acceptable costs greatly promote the R&D of fuel cell technology. This review provides an overview of recent advances in state-of-the-art nanostructured metal-free electrocatalysts including nitrogen-doped carbons, graphitic-carbon nitride (g-C3N4)-based hybrids, and 2D graphene-based materials. A special emphasis is placed on the molecular design of these electrocatalysts, origin of their electrochemical reactivity, and ORR pathways. Finally, some perspectives are highlighted on the development of more efficient ORR electrocatalysts featuring high stability, low cost, and enhanced performance, which are the key factors to accelerate the commercialization of fuel cell technology.