Three-dimensional structured carbon foam : synthesis and applications

Abstract: Recently, due to the unique properties and structures such as large geometric surface area, electrical conductivity and light weight, 3D structured carbon materials have been attracting extensive attention from scientists. Moreover, the materials, which can provide well-defined pathways for reactants to easily access active sites, are extremely useful for energy conversion as well as environmental and catalysis applications. To date, many precursors have been used for fabrication of 3D structured carbon materials including pitch, carbon nanotubes, graphene, and polymer foams.This thesis, as shown in the thesis title, focus on two main aspects: the study of the characteristics of melamine based carbon foam synthesized at different conditions and their applications. In paper I, it was revealed that through a simple, one-step pyrolysis process, flexible carbon foam synthesized from melamine foam (BasotectÒ, BASF) was obtained. Additionally, through a pyrolysis-activation process, activated carbon foam which possesses hydrophilic nature and high surface area was successfully synthesized. The characteristics of carbon foam such as the hydrophobic/hydrophilic nature, electrical conductivity, mechanical properties and surface chemistry were studied. It was shown that carbon foam could be successfully used as an absorbent in environmental applications e.g. removing of spill oil from water (paper I) or as support for heterogeneous catalysts, which in turn was used not only in gas phase reactions (paper I and IV) but also in an aqueous phase reaction (paper II). Importantly, when combined with a SpinChem® rotating bed reactor (SRBR) (paper II), the monolithic carbon foam/SRBR system brought more advantages than using the foam alone. Additionally, the work in paper III showed the potential of carbon foam in an energy conversion application as anode electrode substrate in alkaline water electrolysis. In summary, the versatility of the carbon foam has been proven through abovementioned lab scale studies and due to the simple, scalable and cost effective pyrolysis and activation processes used for the production, it has potential to be used in large-scale applications.