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Multicomponent electrocatalyst with ultralow Pt loading and high hydrogen evolution activity

An Author Correction to this article was published on 05 March 2019

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Platinum is the most effective electrocatalyst for the hydrogen evolution reaction in acidic solutions, but its high cost limits its wide application. Therefore, it is desirable to design catalysts that only require minimal amounts of Pt to function, but that are still highly active. Here we report hydrogen production in acidic water using a multicomponent catalyst with an ultralow Pt loading (1.4 μg per electrode area (cm2)) supported on melamine-derived graphitic tubes (GTs) that encapsulate a FeCo alloy and have Cu deposited on the inside tube walls. With a 1/80th Pt loading of a commercial 20% Pt/C catalyst, in 0.5 M H2SO4 the catalyst achieves a current density of 10 mA cm−2 at an overpotential of 18 mV, and shows a turnover frequency of 7.22 s−1 (96 times higher than that of the Pt/C catalyst) and long-term durability (10,000 cycles). We propose that a synergistic effect between the Pt clusters and single Pt atoms embedded in the GTs enhances the catalytic activity.

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Fig. 1: Synthetic procedure and physical characterization.
Fig. 2: X-ray absorption spectra at the Pt L3 edge.
Fig. 3: Electrochemical performance and demonstration of water-splitting device.
Fig. 4: Catalytic free energies of single Pt atoms and Pt clusters/NPs on a GT surface along with the defect formation and second Pt adhesion energies.
Fig. 5: Projected density of states (PDOS) for planar tetragonal and non-planar tetrahedral defect sites of Pt.
Fig. 6: Images of single Pt atoms and Pt clusters/NPs on a GT surface.
Fig. 7: Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy.
Fig. 8: Geometry and band structures of hydrogen absorbed on Pt–N2C2/GT, Pt(111) and Pt–N2C2/GT + Pt(111).

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  • 05 March 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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This work was supported by NRF (National Honor Scientist Program: 2010-0020414) and KISTI (KSC-2016-C3-0074). We acknowledge K.-S. Lee for help with the EXAFS analysis. The EXAFS experiments were performed in the PAL beamline (6D C&S UNIST-PAL).

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Authors and Affiliations



J.N.T. planned the experiment, electrochemical measurements and analysed the data. J.N.T. and S.S. performed physical and chemical characterizations, including the TEM analysis. S.S. and T.Y. performed the synthesis and electrochemical measurements. C.W.M., N.L., M.H., D.Y.K., S.S.C. and G.L. carried out computations. M.H., A.M.H., H.K. and T.J.S. analysed the EXAFS data. H.J.P. and Z.L. performed TEM measurements. W.G.L., V.V. and H.S.S. discussed the results. J.N.T. and K.S.K. wrote the manuscript. K.S.K. devised the connection between theory and experiment and supervised the project.

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Correspondence to Kwang S. Kim.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1–20, Supplementary Tables 1–7, Supplementary Notes 1–2, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary References

Supplementary Video 1

Full water splitting in acid water.

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Tiwari, J.N., Sultan, S., Myung, C.W. et al. Multicomponent electrocatalyst with ultralow Pt loading and high hydrogen evolution activity. Nat Energy 3, 773–782 (2018).

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