A new sustainable approach based on the hydrothermal carbonization of biomass-derivatives is reported for the synthesis of nitrogen-doped carbon-based aerogels. The catalyst-free hydrothermal treatment of both carbohydrate-based derivatives, i.e. glucose, D-glucosamine and/or N-acetyl-D-glucosamine, and phenolic compounds, i.e. phloroglucinol and/or cyanuric acid, led to highly porous monolithic gels. After pyrolysis under an inert atmosphere, conductive N-doped carbon aerogels were obtained, displaying nitrogen-doping levels of 3–5 wt% and BET surface areas of up to 450 m2 g−1. These original materials showed the first promising results as electrocatalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction and are expected to be used in a wide variety of fields, including for advanced energy conversion and storage devices.
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