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Research Article

Bubble-like Fe-encapsulated N,S-codoped carbon nanofibers as efficient bifunctional oxygen electrocatalysts for robust Zn-air batteries

Yiyi She1,§Jin Liu1,§Hongkang Wang2Li Li3Jinsong Zhou1Michael K.H. Leung1( )
Ability R&D Energy Research Centre, School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Center of Nanomaterials for Renewable Energy (CNRE), State Key Lab of Electrical Insulation and Power Equipment, School of Electrical Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China
School of Automotive and Traffic Engineering, Jiangsu University of Technology, Changzhou 213001, China

§ Yiyi She and Jin Liu contributed equally to this work.

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Graphical Abstract


Efficient, robust and cost-effective bifunctional oxygen electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER) are of vital importance to the widespread utilization of Zn-air batteries. Here we report the fabrication of a bubble-like N,S-codoped porous carbon nanofibers with encapsulated fine Fe/Fe5C2 nanocrystals (~ 10 nm) (FeNSCs) by a facile one-pot pyrolysis strategy. The novel FeNSC nanostructures with high Fe content (37.3 wt.%), and synergetic N and S doping demonstrate remarkable ORR and OER catalytic activities in alkaline condition. Particularly for ORR, the optimal FeNSC catalyst exhibits superior performance in terms of current density and durability in both alkaline and acidic media. Moreover, as catalysts on the air electrodes of Zn-air batteries, the optimal FeNSCs show a high peak power density of 59.6 mW/cm2 and extraordinary discharge-charge cycling performance for 200 h with negligible voltage gap change of only 8% at current density of 20 mA/cm, surpassing its noble metal counterpart (i.e. Pt). The impressive battery stability can be attributed to favorable electron transfer resulting from appropriate graphitization of the bubble-like carbon nanofibers and thorough protection of Fe/Fe5C2 nanoparticles by carbon wrapping to prevent oxidation, agglomeration and dissolution of Fe nanoparticles during battery cycling. The present FeNSC catalyst, which is highly active, robust yet affordable, shows promising prospects in large-scale applications, such as metal-air batteries and fuel cells.

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Nano Research
Pages 2175-2182
Cite this article:
She Y, Liu J, Wang H, et al. Bubble-like Fe-encapsulated N,S-codoped carbon nanofibers as efficient bifunctional oxygen electrocatalysts for robust Zn-air batteries. Nano Research, 2020, 13(8): 2175-2182.






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Received: 21 December 2019
Revised: 21 April 2020
Accepted: 23 April 2020
Published: 05 August 2020
© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020