Origin of the Rarely Reported High Performance of Mn-doped Carbon-based Oxygen Reduction Catalysts

Nagaprasad Reddy Samala, Ilya Grinberg

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Recent efforts to develop durable high-performance platinum-group metal (PGM)-free oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) electrocatalysts have focused on Fe- and Co-based molecular and pyrolyzed catalysts. While Mn-based catalysts have advantages of lower toxicity and higher durability, their activity has been generally poor. Nevertheless, several examples of high-performance Mn-based catalysts have been reported. Thus, it is necessary to understand why Mn-based materials much more rarely show high catalytic ORR performance and to determine the factors that can lead to the achievement of such high performance in these rare cases. We have studied the effects of the changes in the macrocycle structure, axial ligand, distance between the active sites, interactions with the dopant N atoms and the presence of an extended carbon network on the ORR catalysis of various Mn-, Fe-, and Co-based systems through the comparison of the adsorption energies of the ORR intermediates. We find that the sensitivity to the local environment changes is the largest for Mn and is the smallest for Co, with Fe between Mn and Co. Our results showed that the strong binding of OH by Mn and the strong sensitivity of the Mn to the modification of its environment necessitate a precise combination of local environment changes to achieve a high onset potential (Vonset) in Mn-based catalysts. By contrast, the weaker binding of OH by Fe and Co and their weaker sensitivity to local environment changes lead to a wide variety of local environments with favorable catalytic activity (Vonset>0.7 V) for Co- and Fe-based systems. This explains the scarcity of reported Mn-based pyrolyzed catalysts and suggests that precise material synthesis and engineering of the active site can achieve high-performance Mn-based ORR electrocatalysts with high activity and durability.

Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 20 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the Israel National Research Center for Electrochemical Propulsion (INREP) for funding this work under contract by the Israeli Committee for higher Education and the Israel Prime Ministers offices Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. ChemSusChem published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.


  • computational studies
  • electrocatalysis
  • metal catalysts
  • noble-metal free
  • transition metals


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