Graphene-supported metal single-atom catalysts: a concise review

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  • ReceivedDec 17, 2019
  • AcceptedMar 3, 2020
  • PublishedMar 24, 2020


Funded by

the National Natural Science Foundation of China(51502166,51881220658)

and the Scientific Research Program Funded by Shaanxi Provincial Department(17JK0130)


This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51502166 and 51881220658), and the Scientific Research Program Funded by Shaanxi Provincial Department (17JK0130).

Interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Ren S wrote and revised the manuscript with support from Yu Q; Yu X, Rong P, Jiang L and Jiang J actively discussed the original idea of this review, polished the manuscript and organized the references. All authors contributed to the general discussion.

Author information

Shuai Ren was born in 1994. He is now pursuing his Master degree in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Shaanxi University of Technology, Hanzhong, China. His research interest is the preparation of graphene materials and the development of functional devices.

Qi Yu obtained her BSc, MSc and PhD degrees from Jilin University. Now she is an associate professor at the Institute of Graphene at Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Catalysis, Shaanxi University of Technology. Her research interests include fabrication, characterization and properties of nanomaterials, including ZnO/PET-ITO, ZnO/diamond, and graphene composite structures fabricated by magnetron sputtering or hydrothermal technique.


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  • Figure 1

    Schematic diagram illustrating the relationships of surface free energy, instability and specific activity per metal atom on traditional supporting substrate with metal size.

  • Figure 2

    (a) HRTEM images of silicon/graphene sample, (b) catalytic principles of the single Si ad-atom. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [87], Copyright 2016, American Chemical Society.

  • Figure 3

    Preparation, morphology and compositional characterizations of the Co-NG. (a) Preparation process of the Co-NG catalyst, (b) SEM image, (c) XPS spectra (NG represents N-graphene), (d) HR XPS Co 2p and N 1s spectra. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [43], Copyright 2015, Nature Publishing Group.

  • Figure 4

    (a) Schematic diagrams of Pt ALD principle, (b) CV curves of methanol oxidation, (c) XANES spectra at Pt L3 edge. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [30], Copyright 2013, Nature Publishing Group.

  • Figure 5

    (a) Schematic diagrams of dimeric Pt2/graphene catalysts, (b) catalytic activities of diverse Pt catalysts. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [82], Copyright 2017, Springer Nature.

  • Figure 6

    TEM images (a), Raman spectrum (b) and XRD patterns (c) of graphene nanoplatelets. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [95], Copyright 2010, Elsevier.

  • Figure 7

    Pt L3-edge XAFS spectrum for platinum foil. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [97], Copyright 2000, Springer.

  • Figure 8

    (a) Coordination structure and valence state of FeN4/GN catalysts, (b) morphology analysis of FeN4/GN catalyst. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [41], Copyright 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Figure 9

    STEM detector distribution diagram.

  • Figure 10

    (a) HAADF-STEM images of Pd1/graphene, (b) schematic diagrams of butene selectivity on Pd1/graphene catalyst, (c) catalytic capabilities of various samples. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [32], Copyright 2015, American Chemical Society.

  • Figure 11

    (a) SEM and AFM images of single atom Ni-graphene catalyst, (b) TEM image of Ni-graphene catalyst, (c) electronic states of Ni atom in the Ni-graphene catalysts, (d) CO2 reduction in aqueous solution. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [88], Copyright 2018, Springer Nature.

  • Figure 12

    (a) The plausible theoretical calculation results for CO adsorption on PtMG, (b) the contour plot of PtMG, DOS of PtMG and Pt (111) surface. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [39], Copyright 2014, Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • Figure 13

    (a) TEM images and histogram of Pt/GNS; (b) current-potential curves for MOR on (1) Pt/carbon black, (2) Pt/GNS and (3) Pt/Ru-carbon black; (c) HAADF-STEM image of Pt/GNS. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [44], Copyright 2009, American Chemical Society.