Chinese Journal of Catalysis ›› 2021, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (8): 1269-1286.DOI: 10.1016/S1872-2067(20)63619-1

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Recent developments in the use of single-atom catalysts for water splitting

Yao Wanga,b, Xun Huangb,*(), Zidong Weib   

  1. aInstitute of New-Energy and Low-Carbon Technology, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610065, Sichuan, China
    bChongqing Key Laboratory of Chemical Process for Clean Energy and Resource Utilization, College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China
  • Received:2020-09-23 Accepted:2020-10-24 Online:2021-08-18 Published:2020-12-10
  • Contact: Xun Huang
  • About author:*. Tel/Fax: +86-23-65678931;
  • Supported by:
    This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21761162015);This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(91834301);This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21908148);Sichuan Science and Technology Program(2020YJ0088);the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities


Electrochemical water splitting is regarded as the most promising approach to produce hydrogen. However, the sluggish electrochemical reactions occurring at the anode and cathode, namely, the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), respectively, consume a tremendous amount of energy, seriously hampering its wide application. Recently, single-atom catalysts (SACs) have been proposed to effectively enhance the kinetics of these two reactions. In this minireview, we focus on the recent progress in SACs for OER and HER applications. Three classes of SACs have been reviewed, i.e., alloy-based SACs, carbon-based SACs and SACs supported on other compounds. Different factors affecting the activities of SACs are also highlighted, including the inherent element property, the coordination environment, the geometric structure and the loading amount of metal atoms. Finally, we summarize the current problems and directions for future development in SACs.

Key words: Single-atom catalyst, Electrochemical water splitting, Inherent element property, Coordination environment, Geometric structure