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Rational design and simple synthesis of one-dimensional nanofibers with high specific surface areas and hierarchically porous structures are still challenging. In the present work, a novel strategy utilizing a thermally removable template was developed to synthesize hierarchically porous N-doped carbon nanofibers (HP-NCNFs) through the use of simple electrospinning technology coupled with subsequent pyrolysis. During the pyrolysis process, ZnO nanoparticles can be formed in situ and act as a thermally removable template due to their decomposition and sublimation under high-temperature conditions. The resulting HP-NCNFs have lengths of up to hundreds of micrometers with an average diameter of 300 nm and possess a hierarchically porous structure throughout. Such unique structures endow HP-NCNFs with a high specific surface area of up to 829.5 m2·g–1, which is 2.6 times higher than that (323.2 m2·g–1) of conventional N-doped carbon nanofibers (NCNFs). Compared with conventional NCNFs, the HP-NCNF catalyst exhibited greatly enhanced catalytic performance and improved kinetics for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline media. Moreover, the HP-NCNFs even showed better stability and stronger methanol crossover effect tolerance than the commercial Pt-C catalyst. The optimized ORR performance can be attributed to the synergetic contribution of continuous and three-dimensional (3D) cross-linked structures, graphene-like structure on the edge of the HP-NCNFs, high specific surface area, and a hierarchically porous structure.

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Publication history

Received: 15 February 2016
Revised: 21 April 2016
Accepted: 21 April 2016
Published: 24 May 2016
Issue date: August 2016

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© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements

This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 21471016 and 21271023) and the 111 Project (No. B07012).

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Reprints and Permission requests may be sought directly from editorial office.
Email: nanores@tup.tsinghua.edu.cn

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