New material to surpass traditional oxygen reduction reaction catalysts

electric field
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A research group led by Prof. YANG Minghui at the Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering (NIMTE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) discovered that zirconium nitride (ZrN) catalysts could be a superior alternative to expensive platinum (Pt) catalysts for oxygen reduction. The study was published in Nature Materials.

Most electrochemical devices, like fuel cells and metal-air batteries, need catalysts to boost power at acceptable rates. Oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is one of the most fundamental reactions involved in electrochemical energy devices, which has greatly influenced the power delivery from devices.

Pt is currently the most widely used and commercial ORR catalyst. However, it is a scarcely available metal (37 ppb in Earth's crust) with high cost (US$28.3 g-1 as the 2018 average price), which limits the large-scale applications of electrochemical energy devices.

To address this issue, the research group used a urea–glass route at moderate temperatures to prepare ZrN nanoparticles (NPs), which could substitute and even surpass the high-cost Pt as a catalyst for oxygen reduction under alkaline conditions.

As-synthesized ZrN NPs showed a high performance with the same activity as that of the traditional Pt-on-carbon (Pt/C) commercial catalyst. Furthermore, in 0.1 M KOH solutions, both materials showed the same halfwave potential (E1/2 = 0.80 V) and ZrN exhibited a higher stability (ΔE1/2 = -3 mV) than the Pt/C catalyst (ΔE1/2 = -39 mV) after 1,000 ORR cycles. Besides, ZrN delivered a greater power density and cyclability than Pt/C in a zinc–air battery.

It seems that ZrN is an outstanding co- because it combines excellent features of low cost, high activity and superior stability, benefiting in promoting the large-scale applications of electrochemical energy conversion.

Moreover, this work can shed light on the further investigations of cost-effective and efficient nitride catalysts, and pave the way for the extensive use of clean energy.

More information: Yao Yuan et al. Zirconium nitride catalysts surpass platinum for oxygen reduction, Nature Materials (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41563-019-0535-9

Journal information: Nature Materials

Citation: New material to surpass traditional oxygen reduction reaction catalysts (2020, February 17) retrieved 31 May 2023 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Chemist synthesizes gold-based electrocatalysts


Feedback to editors