Journal: Science Advances
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Carbon gets a roasting
A versatile method for making functional carbon materials has been developed by researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).
Carbon materials are in great demand due to their properties, which can include high electrical conductivity and catalytic activity. They have typically been made by heating carbon-rich precursor molecules, via a process called carbonization. But this suffers from significant limitations that have held back carbon materials’ application.
Now, USTC researchers have developed a simple method for producing a diverse range of carbon materials. They have shown that mixtures of small organic molecules can be turned into carbon materials by first mixing them with transition metal salts. During the initial heating phase, the metals catalyse the conversion of the small organic molecules into thermally stable polymeric materials, which then undergo carbonization.
Simply by altering the starting small organic molecules, the researchers could create carbon materials that were highly active catalysts for chemical production, or electrocatalysts capable of splitting water molecules to generate hydrogen fuel.
- Science Advances 4, eaat0788 (2018). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0788