Hierarchical porous carbon fibers/carbon nanofibers monolith from electrospinning/CVD processes as a high effective surface area support platform†
Nanocarbons with unique physicochemical properties have been considered typical sustainable materials for use as catalyst supports and directly as catalysts. Unfortunately, the powder form of nanocarbons renders them difficult to use in industrial processes due to the high pressure drop, their difficulty of handling as well as health injuries caused to human beings. Herein, hierarchical carbon fibers/carbon nanofibers (CF/CNF) composites, with high effective surface areas and controlled macroscopic shapes, were successfully synthesized through a combination of electrospinning (ES) and chemical vapour deposition (CVD). A web of poly(acrylonitrile)/poly(vinyl pyrrolidone) (PAN/PVP) composite fibers embedding a nickel salt was firstly produced by electrospinning. After a carbonization step, the polymeric material was converted into porous carbon embedding nickel nanoparticles, available on the fiber surface. Then, the catalytic growth of the CNFs was carried out from the nickel nanoparticles by CVD leading finally to the formation of a hierarchical carbon web of hairy fibers with a high effective surface area. The density, diameters and lengths of the CNFs attached on the surface of the CFs could be finely tuned by adjusting the CVD conditions. The specific surface area of the CF/CNF monolith amounted to more than 200 m2 g−1 along with high accessibility due to the small dimensions. The hierarchical CF/CNF composite has been used as a metal-free catalyst for the steam- and oxygen-free catalytic dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene to styrene. The catalytic results have pointed out that such a monolith can be efficiently used as a material platform for different applications , going from catalysis to wastewater treatment, thanks to the high effective surface area and reactivity of the CNF with prismatic planes.