Researchers develop porous carbon foam with wide range of applications

Researchers from Imperial College London claim to have developed a low-cost method for producing a carbon foam material that can be used for a variety of applications.

The method they developed involves the carbonisation of polymers derived from particle stabilised high internal phase emulsions (polyHIPEs). A mouldable emulsion-template allows for the synthesis of carbon foams, or ‘carboHIPEs’ in many different shapes and sizes, with the materials displaying hierarchical porosity ranging from micropores to emulsion-templated macropores, resulting in very high surface areas.

These carbon foams have a range of possible applications, from catalyst support through gas separation to energy storage devices. Some of the benefits of these foams over other materials include low cost of production, low density and electrochemical resistance.

The paper also highlights how the porosity of the foams can be adjusted by varying the size and wettability of the particular emulsifier. This also offers the opportunity to embed different functional materials into the surface.

Ongoing work is taking place to look into the use of a variety of particulate surfactants to measure their effect on the stability and properties of the resulting carbon foams, as well as to test the materials as possible electrodes in small supercapacitor devices.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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