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  1. Rational design of single-metal atom sites in carbon substrates by a flexible strategy is highly desired for the preparation of high-performance catalysts for metal-air batteries. In this study, biomass hydrogel reactors are utilized as structural templates to prepare carbon aerogels embedded with single iron atoms by controlled pyrolysis. The tortuous and interlaced hydrogel chains lead to the formation of abundant nanowrinkles in the porous carbon aerogels, and single iron atoms are dispersed and stabilized within the defective carbon skeletons. X-ray absorption spectroscopy measurements indicate that the iron centers are mostly involved in the coordination structure of FeN 4 , with a minor fraction (ca. 1/5) in the form of FeN 3 C. First-principles calculations show that the FeN x sites in the Stone-Wales configurations induced by the nanowrinkles of the hierarchically porous carbon aerogels show a much lower free energy than the normal counterparts. The resulting iron and nitrogen-codoped carbon aerogels exhibit excellent and reversible oxygen electrocatalytic activity, and can be used as bifunctional cathode catalysts in rechargeable Zn-air batteries, with a performance even better than that based on commercial Pt/C and RuO 2 catalysts. Results from this study highlight the significance of structural distortions of the metal sites inmore »carbon matrices in the design and engineering of highly active single-atom catalysts.« less
  2. Atomically dispersed metal catalysts have demonstrated superb electrocatalytic activity because of optimal atom efficiency. However, a rational design of low-cost, high-performance single atom catalysts remains a great challenge due to the elusive chemical reactions of the formation of metal active sites. In this work, biomass hydrogel is prepared as a template for mass production of three-dimensional carbon aerogel-supported single metal atom catalysts. By tailoring the structure of the hydrogel templates, the obtained carbon aerogels exhibit an increase of microporous defects which capture and stabilize isolated metal atoms and minimize aggregation during pyrolysis. Extended X-ray absorption fine structure, Mössbauer spectroscopy, and nitrogen adsorption–desorption isotherm measurements indicate that single metal centers of FeN 4 are formed and embedded within the hierarchical porous carbon frameworks. The obtained composites exhibit outstanding catalytic activity towards oxygen reduction in alkaline media, with a high onset potential of +1.05 V and half-wave potential of +0.88 V, as well as excellent durability. Remarkably, when the carbon aerogels are used as the cathode catalyst in an aluminum–air battery, the battery achieves an ultrahigh open-circuit voltage of 1.81 V, large power density of 181.1 mW cm −2 and stable discharge voltage of 1.70 V at 20 mA cm −2 ,more »markedly better than those with commercial Pt/C as the cathode catalyst.« less