The effect of precursor structure on porous carbons produced by iron-catalyzed graphitization of biomass†
This paper reports a systematic study into the effect of different biomass-derived precursors on the structure and porosity of carbons prepared via catalytic graphitization. Glucose, starch and cellulose are combined with iron nitrate and heated under a nitrogen atmosphere to produce Fe3C nanoparticles, which catalyze the conversion of amorphous carbon to graphitic nanostructures. The choice of organic precursor provides a means of controlling the catalyst particle size, which has a direct effect on the porosity of the material. Cellulose and glucose produce mesoporous carbons, while starch produces a mixture of micro- and mesopores under the same conditions and proceeds via a much slower graphitization step, generating a mixture of graphitic nanostructures and turbostratic carbon. Porous carbons are critical to energy applications such as batteries and electrocatalytic processes. For these applications, a simple and sustainable route to those carbons is essential. Therefore, the ability to control the precise structure of a biomass-derived carbon simply through the choice of precursor will enable the production of a new generation of energy materials.