Abstract: Molybdenum carbides are promising electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). Rational design of morphology, composition and interfacial structure in Mo2C materials is essential to enhance their HER performance. Herein, an acid-base molecular assembly strategy is demonstrated for the synthesis of novel N-doped Mo2C@C core–shell nanowires (NWs) composed of mesoporous Mo2C cores with interconnected crystalline walls and ultrathin carbon shells. The strong interactions between the two precursors, adenine (Ade) and phosphomolybdic acid (PMA), lead to the formation of inter-molecular hybrid NWs during a hydrothermal process. The subsequent pyrolysis leads to confined growth of crystalline Mo2C NWs with inter-crystal mesopores (5 ~ 10 nm), formation of ultrathin carbon shells (~1.5 nm in thickness), and effective N doping. Such a structure architecture can provide abundant active sites, fast and diverse mass and electron transport paths, as well as stable reaction interfaces. The typical N-doped Mo2C@C NWs exhibit high HER performance with a low overpotential of 136 mV at 10 mA cm−2, a small Tafel slop of 58 mV dec-1, excellent durability and outstanding anti-poisoning performance against CO and H2S gases. Furthermore, the influences of several important factors, including the pyrolysis temperature, hydrothermal temperature and precursor mass ratio, on the morphology, composition and structural configuration of the resulted materials are elucidated and correlated with their HER performance. This work may provide a general strategy for the synthesis of other nanoscale metal carbides for various catalytic applications.
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