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Journal of Applied Electrochemistry

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 119–133 | Cite as

Promoted activity of nitrogen-doped activated carbon as a highly efficient oxygen reduction catalyst in microbial fuel cells

  • Yuan LiuEmail author
  • Zhi-Mei Liu
Research Article
  • 124 Downloads
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Fuel cells

Abstract

Despite the wide application of activated carbon (AC) as cathode electrocatalyst in microbial fuel cell (MFC), the enhancement of its catalytic activity is crucial to reduce its high loading on air-cathode. Herein, we synthesize nitrogen-doped activated carbon (NAC) by pyrolyzing phthalocyanine (Pc) adsorbed on AC to develop an efficient oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) electrocatalyst. The optimized mass ratio of AC to Pc improves the crystalline structure and porous structure of the NAC. Elemental analysis indicates that this material contains appropriate content of pyrrolic and pyridinic types of nitrogen and oxygen species. The NAC shows an ORR onset potential of 0.468 V (vs. Standard hydrogen electrode), an electron transfer number of 3.90, and high electrochemically accessible surface area, thereby illustrating enhanced electrocatalytic activity in the neutral medium relative to alkali-treated activated carbon (b-AC) and commercial platinum catalyst. Owing to the high activity, a small amount of NAC with a loading of 15 mg cm− 2 on the air-cathode of MFC is sufficient to achieve the maximum power density of 1026.07 ± 10.83 mW m− 2, which is higher than that of b-AC and comparable to platinum catalyst. The reduced loading of NAC indicates that the material can be used as cathode electrocatalyst for the ongoing effort to scale up MFC in the future.

Graphical abstract

Keywords

Activated carbon Phthalocyanine Nitrogen-doping Microbial fuel cell Oxygen reduction reaction 

Abbreviations

AC

Activated carbon

BET

Brunauer–Emmett–Teller

BJH

Barrett–Joyner–Halenda

CE

Coulombic efficiency

COD

Chemical oxygen demand

CV

Cyclic voltammetry

ECSA

Electrochemical accessible surface area

LSV

Linear sweep voltammetry

MFC

Microbial fuel cell

MPD

Maximum power density

NAC

Nitrogen-doped activated carbon

OCV

Open-circuit voltage

ORR

Oxygen reduction reaction

PBS

Phosphate-buffered saline

Pc

Phthalocyanine

PGMs

Platinum group metals

RRDE

Rotating ring-disk electrode

SEM

Scanning electron microscopy

SHE

Standard hydrogen electrode

XPS

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy

XRD

X-ray diffraction

%H2O2

Yield percentage of H2O2 (%)

j0

Exchange current density (mA cm− 2)

n

Electron transfer number

η

Overpotential (mV)

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51578526), the Chongqing Research Program of Basic Research and Frontier Technology (No. cstc2015jcyjBX0063), and by Natural Science Foundation of Chongqing (No. cstc2018jcyjAX0327), and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. 2016341).

Supplementary material

10800_2018_1263_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1169 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Reservoir Aquatic EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChongqingChina
  2. 2.Chongqing Institute of Green and Intelligent TechnologyChinese Academy of SciencesChongqingChina

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