Extensive research work has been invested in the past decade in finding replacements for platinum-based electrocatalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells. The majority of these alternative electrocatalysts are based on transition-metal ions coordinated by organic ligands. Different from previously reported approaches for electrocatalysts, we describe here the synthesis, characterization, and oxygen reduction reaction activity of lanthanide complex electrocatalyst with ytterbium as the metal center. A metal-organic framework of Yb and benzene tricarboxylic acid as a ligand was synthesized on activated carbon (Yb(III)BTC@AC) to achieve electrical conductivity in a procedure similar to M-BTC@AC electrocatalysts with transition-metal centers. The Yb complex in activated carbon presents oxygen reduction reaction activity in alkaline solution with high onset potential relative to other nonpyrolyzed molecular electrocatalysts and proceeds mostly through the preferred four-electron reduction mechanism. This work presents a novel category of platinum group metal-free electrocatalysts as an alternative electrocatalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction.
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