“We have developed a ‘designer carbon’ that is both versatile and controllable,” said Zhenan Bao, the senior author of the study and a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. “Our study shows that this material has exceptional energy-storage capacity, enabling unprecedented performance in lithium-sulfur batteries and supercapacitors.”
The new material is a dramatic improvement over conventional activated carbon that is made by burning coconut shells at high temperatures and then chemically treating them. That process creates nanosized holes that increase the surface area of the carbon, allowing it to catalyze more chemical reactions and store more electrical charges.
But activated carbon has drawbacks, Bao said. For example, there is little interconnectivity between the pores, which limits their ability to transport electricity.
Instead of using coconut shells, Bao and her colleagues developed a new way to synthesise high-quality carbon using inexpensive – and uncontaminated – chemicals and polymers that form an interconnected, three-dimensional framework that’s ideal for conducting electricity.
“This framework also contains organic molecules and functional atoms, such as nitrogen, which allow us to tune the electronic properties of the carbon.”
Originally published by Cosmos as Designer carbon improves battery storage
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.