Carbon nanomaterials have caught tremendous attention in the last few decades due to their unique physical and chemical properties. Tremendous effort has been made to develop new synthesis techniques for carbon nanomaterials and investigate their properties for different applications. In this work, carbon nanospheres (CNSs), carbon foams (CF), and single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) were studied for various applications, including water treatment, energy storage, actuators, and sensors.
A facile spray pyrolysis synthesis technique was developed to synthesize individual CNSs with specific surface area (SSA) up to 1106 m2/g. The hollow CNSs showed adsorption of up to 300 mg rhodamine B dye per gram carbon, which is more than 15 times higher than that observed for conventional carbon black. They were also evaluated as adsorbents for removal of arsenate and selenate from water and displayed good binding to both species, outperforming commercial activated carbons for arsenate removal in pH > 8. When evaluated as supercapacitor electrode materials, specific capacitances of up to 112 F/g at a current density of 0.1 A/g were observed. When used as Li-ion battery anode materials, the CNSs achieved a discharge capacity of 270 mAh/g at a current density of 372 mA/g (1C), which is 4-fold higher than that of commercial graphite anode.
Carbon foams were synthesized using direct pyrolysis and had SSA up to 2340 m2/g. When used as supercapacitor electrode materials, a specific capacitance up to 280 F/g was achieved at current density of 0.1 A/g and remained as high as 207 F/g, even at a high current density of 10 A/g.
A printed walking robot was made from common plastic films and coatings of SWNTs. The solid-state thermal bimorph actuators were multifunctional energy transducers powered by heat, light, or electricity. The actuators were also investigated for photo/thermal detection. Electrochemical actuators based on MnO2 were also studied for potential underwater applications.
SWNTs were also used to fabricate printable electrodes for trace Cr(VI) detection, which displayed sensitivity up to 500 nA/ppb for Cr(VI). The limit of detection was shown to be as low as 5 ppb. A flow detection system based on CNT/printed electrodes was also demonstrated.