Superstructure carbons and its potential impact on green energy

Siobhan Doyle

Despite prevailing focus on phasing out carbon as an energy source, what if we explored the untapped potential of existing carbon resources?

Carbon’s significance as an energy source cannot be overstated. Yet, its overreliance has had detrimental impact on the environment, prompting a dire need for alternatives. Enter superstructure carbons (SCCs), offering a promising avenue for utilising carbon in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner, potentially surpassing the performance and longevity of conventional materials in energy storage and conversion devices.

Debin Kong, a researcher involved in the study focusing on this, underscores the unique nature of SCCs, emphasising their ability to meet the specific functional demands of high-performance devices while transcending the constraints of traditional carbons. SCCs, being carbon-based materials, may seem counterintuitive in the quest to reduce carbon dependency. However, their intentional design allows for more direct functions, leading to enhanced performance and functionality, according to the researchers.

SCCs are tailor-made carbon-based materials precisely engineered to interface with various energy storage devices such as lithium-ion (Li) batteries, lithium sulphide (LiS) batteries, or metal-air batteries. Key characteristics vital for successful SCC development and implementation include precisely customised pores, freely adjustable frameworks, and highly-coupled interfaces.

According to the researchers, precisely customised pores offer improved surface utilisation and mass transfer, enhancing metrics like specific capacity in energy storage devices. Meanwhile, freely adjustable frameworks facilitate rapid electron transfer within the materials, including the carbon unit and electrode. Highly-coupled interfaces further enhance electron transfer, crucial for optimising battery function and performance.

Beyond research

Kong states that the concept of SCCs offers a promising solution to current carbon-related challenges, holding significant implications for advanced carbon applications in high-performance energy devices.

The objective of researchers extends beyond merely improving carbon-based active materials; they aim to push the boundaries of carbon structures, aiming for breakthroughs in energy conversion and storage performance. However, several challenges must be addressed through further research.

It’s imperative to recognise that different energy devices have unique requirements, necessitating a comprehensive understanding of their relationship with SCCs. Moreover, the cost-effectiveness and performance of SCCs require careful examination to ensure practicality and widespread adoption. This entails refining the preparation process and precursor selection to lower costs and streamline production.

Furthermore, deeper insights into the carbon microstructure and its evolution based on precursor selection are essential for optimising SCCs. Addressing these challenges will be pivotal in unlocking the full potential of SCCs and ushering in a new era of enhanced energy storage and conversion technologies.

For more information visit the Energy Materials and Devices journal


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