Functional Carbon Materials Made Simple And Scalable

Chinese researchers have proposed a simple and inexpensive method to prepare carbon nanomaterials from small organic molecules.

AsianScientist (Aug. 6, 2018) – In a study published in Science Advances, a team of scientists in China has developed a simple, effective and versatile method to prepare functional carbon nanomaterials from small organic molecules.

Carbon nanomaterials have high electric conductivity, good chemical stability and unique microstructures that make them amenable to application in diverse fields. Traditionally, carbon nanomaterials are prepared by the carbonization of low vapor-pressure natural products or synthetic polymers.

However, existing methods suffer from some distinct disadvantages, such as difficulty in tailoring the microstructures and chemical compositions of the obtained products, or complicated and slow polymerization processes.

In this study, a research team led by Professor Yu Shuhong and Professor Liang Haiwei from the University of Science and Technology of China proposed a method to create a series of functional carbon nanomaterials from small organic molecules by a transition metal-assisted carbonization process. The transition metals catalyze the preferential formation of thermally stable intermediate polymeric structures, thus avoiding the direct sublimation of the small organic molecules when they are heated. This enables the preparation of carbon nanomaterials with high carbon yield.

The carbon nanomaterials produced by the researchers exhibited three different prominent microstructures: bamboo-like multi-walled carbon nanotubes, micrometer-sized nanosheets and irregularly-shaped particles. The type of structure formed was highly dependent on the molecular structures of the constituent small organic molecules.

Moreover, the carbon nanomaterials possessed high specific surface areas, large pore volumes, abundant heteroatoms as well as highly graphitic structures. The researchers therefore suggested that their carbon nanomaterials have great potential for use as heterogeneous catalysts, such as for the selective oxidization of ethylbenzene and the hydrogenation of nitrobenzene. The carbon nanomaterials could also be adapted to perform electrocatalysis to produce hydrogen fuel.

Because small organic molecules are commonly available, relatively inexpensive and are made up of diverse elements with varying properties, the resultant carbon nanomaterials are suitable for an array of large-scale industrial applications, the researchers said.

The article can be found at: Wu et al. (2018) Transition Metal–assisted Carbonization of Small Organic Molecules Toward Functional Carbon Materials.


Source: University of Science and Technology of China.
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