Three dimensional macroporous architectures and aerogels built of carbon nanotubes and/or graphene: synthesis and applications
Carbon nanotubes and graphene are some of the most intensively explored carbon allotropes in materials science. This interest mainly resides in their unique properties with electrical conductivities as high as 104 S cm−1, thermal conductivities as high as 5000 W m−1 K and superior mechanical properties with elastic moduli on the order of 1 TPa for both of them. The possibility to translate the individual properties of these monodimensional (e.g. carbon nanotubes) and bidimensional (e.g. graphene) building units into two-dimensional free-standing thick and thin films has paved the way for using these allotropes in a number of applications (including photocatalysis, electrochemistry, electronics and optoelectronics, among others) as well as for the preparation of biological and chemical sensors. More recently and while recognizing the tremendous interest of these two-dimensional structures, researchers are noticing that the performance of certain devices can experience a significant enhancement by the use of three-dimensional architectures and/or aerogels because of the increase of active material per projected area. This is obviously the case as long as the nanometre-sized building units remain accessible so that the concept of hierarchical three-dimensional organization is critical to guarantee the mass transport and, as consequence, performance enhancement. Thus, this review aims to describe the different synthetic processes used for preparation of these three-dimensional architectures and/or aerogels containing either any or both allotropes, and the different fields of application in which the particular structure of these materials provided a significant enhancement in the efficacy as compared to their two-dimensional analogues or even opened the path to novel applications. The unprecedented compilation of information from both CNT- and graphene-based three-dimensional architectures and/or aerogels in a single revision is also of interest because it allows a straightforward comparison between the particular features provided by each allotrope.