O2 reduction on graphite and nitrogen-doped graphite: experiment and theory.
An experimental and theoretical study of electroreduction of oxygen to hydrogen peroxide is presented. The experimental measurements of nitrided Ketjenblack indicated an onset potential for reduction of approximately 0.5 V (SHE) compared to the onset potential of 0.2 V observed for untreated carbon. Quantum calculations on cluster models of nitrided and un-nitrided graphite sheets show that carbon radical sites formed adjacent to substitutional N in graphite are active for O2 electroreduction to H2O2 via and adsorbed OOH intermediate. The weak catalytic effect of untreated carbon is attributed to weaker bonding of OOH to the H atom-terminated graphite edges. Substitutional N atoms that are far from graphite sheet edges will be active, and those that are close to the edges will be less active. Interference from electrochemical reduction of H atoms on the reactive sites is considered, and it is shown that in the potential range of H2O2 formation the reactive sites are not blocked by adsorbed H atoms.