Background: Oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) rates affect fuel cell performance and the present lack of efficient ORR catalysts hinders the widespread application of fuel cells. Platinum is the most common fuel cell catalyst but its high cost and performance issues obviate large scale production of fuel cells for commercial applications. Development of metal-free materials that demonstrate superior catalytic performance at fuel cell electrodes is therefore needed. Technology Description: The present invention is a metal-free nanocomposite material that demonstrates optimal ORR electrocatalytic activity. This new hybrid material is prepared from coal and graphite raw materials and is comprised of graphene quantum dots / graphene (GQD/G) nanoplatelets. These nanoplatelets can also be further treated with boron and nitrogen to obtain BN-doped GQD/G nanoplatelets to give an ORR activity that meets or exceeds that of platinum-based electrodes. Applications: 1) This material has potential utility as a metal-free electrode component in ORR fuel cells. 2) The present material could also serve as an oxygen evolution reaction catalyst for application in metal-air batteries.
1) Facile and inexpensive synthesis from cheap abundant raw materials 2) Hybrid material amenable to inclusion of other heteroatom dopants 3) GQD edge functionalization leads to enhanced catalytic performance 4) Conductive graphene sheets serve as platform for uniform distribution of GQD