Women in Nanoscience


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Zhenan Bao's highly porous carbon networks offer impressive surface areas for new energy storage applications

Posted on June 22, 2015 at 6:35 PM

Carbon-based materials offer great potential for energy storage, supercapacitors, and carbon-capturing applications. Making these materials porous can dramatically increase the internal surface area, leading to increasing capacity. However, current methods for controlling the structural and morphological properties of carbon materials can be quite complicated and expensive.

(Figure 5 from the article published on ACS Central Science - “Designer Carbon” electrodes and supercapacitors fabricated on different substrates. (a) An interdigital supercapacitor made by spray coating carbon ink on a gold-coated PET film. (b) supercapacitor on aluminum coated Kapton polymide film. (c) silicon wafer that contains 10 supercapacitors and (d) A 4cm x 5cm size electrode (thickness of ∼100 μm) made by blade coating HPG carbon slurry on a Titanium substrate. Scale bar, 1 cm (a−d).)

Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, and her colleagues recently developed a method to fabricate porous graphite carbon with the ability to control that material's structural and morphological properties. This 'designer carbon' material is created using a complex polymer that forms an interconnected carbon sheet framework that are as little as one nanometer thick. Thermal processing options can produce different materials' properties, and can have internal surface areas as large as 4000 square meters per gram (almost the area of a football field in every 10 grams!). Such materials could significantly improve the storage capacity for batteries and the electrical conductivity of supercapacitors. Bao's new design not only provides the ability to precisely control the properties of the material, tailored for different applications, but also provides an economical solution. This brings down the cost to less than $10 for every kilogram of carbon. Details of this work were featured as the cover story of ACS Central Science on May 18th, 2015.


Prof. Bao is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, Material Research Society, and International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). In 2013, Prof. Bao was selected as a World Technology Award Finalist, presented in association with TIME, Fortune, CNN and Science, and was named as one of top 100 Material Scientists for the 2000-2010 period.

- Written by Eugene Choi, Edited by Paulette Clancy

(Credit: ACS Cent. Sci., 2015, 1 (2), pp 68–76. Open-access journal under the ACS AuthorChoice License.)

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