Bio-inspired carbon electro-catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction
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© 2016 Science Press and Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics. All rights reserved.We report the synthesis, characterisation and catalytic performance of two nature-inspired biomass-derived electro-catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells. The catalysts were prepared via pyrolysis of a real food waste (lobster shells) or by mimicking the composition of lobster shells using chitin and CaCO3 particles followed by acid washing. The simplified model of artificial lobster was prepared for better reproducibility. The calcium carbonate in both samples acts as a pore agent, creating increased surface area and pore volume, though considerably higher in artificial lobster samples due to the better homogeneity of the components. Various characterisation techniques revealed the presence of a considerable amount of hydroxyapatite left in the real lobster samples after acid washing and a low content of carbon (23%), nitrogen and sulphur (<1%), limiting the surface area to 23 m2/g, and consequently resulting in rather poor catalytic activity. However, artificial lobster samples, with a surface area of ≈200 m2/g and a nitrogen doping of 2%, showed a promising onset potential, very similar to a commercially available platinum catalyst, with better methanol tolerance, though with lower stability in long time testing over 10,000 s.