High oxygen reduction activity of few-walled carbon nanotubes with low nitrogen content

M. Borghei, Petri Kanninen, M. Lundahl, T. Susi, J. Sainio, I. Anoshkin, A. Nasibulin, Tanja Kallio, K. Tammeveski, E. Kauppinen, V. Ruiz

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Nitrogen-containing few-walled carbon nanotubes (N-FWCNTs) with very low nitrogen content (0.56 at.%) were obtained by a process involving the coating of acid functionalized FWCNTs with polyaniline (PANI) followed by pyrolysis at high temperatures. The resulting N-FWCNTs exhibited a remarkable electrocatalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), despite significantly lower nitrogen content than previously reported in literature. The N-FWCNTs performed on par or better than Pt-C in the cathode of an alkaline direct methanol fuel cell, corroborating the ORR activity observed in the electrochemical cell and exhibiting a higher methanol tolerance.
Interestingly, N-FWCNTs showed a high activity for the hydrogen evolution reaction and for the hydrogen peroxide decomposition, suggesting that the active sites involved in ORR can simultaneously catalyze other reactions. This unprecedentedly high activity for such a low Ncontent can be explained by the exceptional accessibility for the catalytic sites located in open and porous N-doped layer surrounding the FWCNT core, along with the minimization of inactive inner volume and mass compared to larger nitrogen doped multiwalled tubes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-241
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Catalysis B-Environmental
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Alkaline fuel cell
  • Few-walled carbon nanotubes
  • Nitrogen-doped
  • Oxygen reduction reaction


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