Metal-free, carbon-based catalysts for oxygen reduction reactions

Zhiyi Wu, Zafar Iqbal, Xianqin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Developing metal-free, carbon-based catalysts to replace platinum-based catalysts for oxygen reduction reactions (ORRs) is an emerging area of research. In recent years, different carbon structures including carbon doped with IIIA-VIIA heteroatoms (C–M site-based, where M represents the doped heteroatom) and polynitrogen (PN) compounds encapsulated in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) (N–N site-based) have been synthesized. Compared to metallic catalysts, these materials are highly active, stable, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly. This review discusses the development of these materials, their ORR performances and the mechanisms for how the incorporation of heteroatoms enhances the ORR activity. Strategies for tailoring the structures of the carbon substrates to improve ORR performance are also discussed. Future studies in this area will need to include optimizing synthetic strategies to control the type, amount and distribution of the incorporated heteroatoms, as well as better understanding the ORR mechanisms in these catalysts.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-294
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemical Engineering


  • carbon-based
  • electrocatalysis
  • metal-free
  • oxygen reduction reaction
  • polynitrogen


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