Block Copolymer Derived Porous Carbon Fiber for Energy and Environmental Science

dc.contributor.authorSerrano, Joel Marcosen
dc.contributor.committeechairLiu, Guoliangen
dc.contributor.committeememberDorn, Harry C.en
dc.contributor.committeememberEsker, Alan R.en
dc.contributor.committeememberLin, Fengen
dc.description.abstractAs the world population grows, a persistent pressure on natural resources remains. Resource requirements have extensively expanded due to industrialization. Several technological advancements continually aim to alleviate these resource shortages by targeting existing shortcomings in effective and efficient material design. Practical, high-performing, and economical materials are needed in several key application areas, including energy storage, energy harvesting, electronics, catalysis, and water purification. Further development into high-performing and economical materials remain imperative. Innovators must seek to develop technologies that overcome fundamental limitations by designing materials and devices which address resource challenges. Carbon serves as a versatile material for a wide range of applications including purification, separation, and energy storage owing to excellent electrical, physical, and mechanical properties. One-dimensional (1D) carbon fiber in particular is renowned for excellent strength with high surface-to-volume ratio and is widely commercially available. Although an exceptional candidate to address current energy and environmental needs, carbon fibers require further investigation to be used to their full potential. Emerging strategies for carbon fiber design rely on developing facile synthetic routes for controlled carbon structures. The scientific community has shown extensive interest in porous carbon fabrication owing to the excellent performance enhancement in separation, filtration, energy storage, energy conversion, and several other applications. This dissertation both reviews and contributes to the recent works of porous carbon and their applications in energy and environmental sciences. The background section shows recent development in porous carbon and the processing methods under investigation and current synthetic methods for designing porous carbon fibers (PCF). Later sections focus on original research. A controlled radical polymerization method, reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT), enabled a synthetic design for a block copolymer precursor, poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and polyacrylonitrile (PAN). The block copolymer (PMMA-b-PAN) possesses a unique microphase separation when electrospun and develop narrowly disperse mesopores upon carbonization. The PMMA and PAN domains self-assemble in a kinetically trapped disordered network whereby PMMA decomposes and PAN cross-links into PCF. The initial investigation highlights the block copolymer molecular weight and compositional design control for tuning the physical and electrochemical properties of PCF. Based on this study, mesopore (2 – 50 nm) size can be tuned between 10 – 25 nm while maintaining large surface areas, and the PAN-derived micropores (< 2 nm). The mesopores and micropores both contribute to the development of the unique hierarchical porous carbon structure which brings unprecedented architectural control. The pore control greatly contributes to the carbon field as the nano-scale architecture significantly influences performance and functionality. The next section uses PCF to clean water sources that are often tainted with undesirable ions such as salts and pollutants. Deionization or electrosorption is an electrochemical method for water purification via ion removal. I employed the PCFs as an electrode for deionization because of their high surface area and tunable pore size. Important for deionization, the adsorption isotherms and kinetics highlight the capacity and speed for purification of water. I studied PCF capacitive filtration on charged organic salts. Because PCF have both micropores and mesopores, they were able to adsorb ions at masses exceeding their own weight. The PFC adsorption efficiency was attributed to the diffusion kinetics within the hierarchical porous system and the double layer capacitance development on the PCF surface. In addition, based on the mechanism of adsorption, the PCFs showed high stability and reusability for future adsorption/desorption applications. The PCF performance as an electrosorption material highlights the rational design for efficient electrodes by hierarchical interconnected porosity. Another application of PFCs is updating evaporative desalination methods for water purification. Currently distillation is not widely used as a source of potable water owing to the high cost and energy requirement. Solar desalination could serve as a low-cost method for desalination; however, the evaporation enthalpy of water severely limits practical implementation. Here I apply the pore design of PCF as a method for water nano-confinement. Confinement effects reduce water density and lowers evaporation enthalpy. Desalination in PCF were studied in pores < 2 nm to 22 nm. The PCF pore size of ~ 10 nm was found to be the peak efficiency and resulted in a ~ 46% reduction in enthalpy. Interestingly, the PCF nano-confinement also contributed to the understanding in competing desorption energy for evaporation in micropores. The pore design in PCF also shows confinement effects that can be implemented in other environmental applications. Lastly, the block copolymer microphase morphology was explored in a vapor induced phase separation system. The resulting PCF properties showed a direct influence from the phase separation caused by nonsolvent. At low nonsolvent vapor, a disordered microphase separation occurred, however upon application of nonsolvent vapor, the polymer chains reorganized. The reorganization initially improved mechanical properties by developing more long-range ordered graphic chains in the PAN-derived carbon. However, at higher nonsolvent vapor concentrations, the fibers experienced polymer precipitation which resulted in bead and clump formation in the fiber mats. The beads and clumps lowered both mechanical properties and electrochemical performance. The vapor induced phase separation showed a method for enhancing mechanical properties without compromising electrochemical performance in flexible carbon fibers.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralNanomaterials possess mechanical, physical, and electrical properties to address important growing demands for precious resources such as clean water and energy. Many advancements in nanomaterials focus on improving fine-tune architectures which facilitate efficiency in composites, filtration systems, catalytic systems, energy storage devices, and electronics. Carbon material has remained a valuable candidate in these fields owing to its abundancy economical cost, and excellent properties. Several carbon forms provide unique characteristics including 0D dots, 1D fibers, 2D sheets, and 3D monoliths. Of these, 1D fibers possess excellent strength, resiliency, and conductivity and have been commercially employed in modern automotive, airplanes, membranes, and conductors. However, traditional carbon fiber fabrication does not match the growing needs in performance. Therefore, in this dissertation I explore the design and processing of carbon fibers for controlled architectures. These designs were then systematically studied in filtration systems, solar desalination, and flexible electronics. Block copolymers provide a new way to combine polymers for drastically new materials and effects. Firstly, I conducted a comprehensive study on the synthesis and composition of this block copolymer which laid the foundation for future carbon fiber design. The polymer consists of two chains – one chain to develop carbon structures upon heating; the second which decomposes into pores upon heating. Therefore, with these two chains, a highly porous carbon fiber can be created. The reaction I studied could mostly be controlled with time to change the length of each chain. Ultimately, the pore size and surface area depend on the relative lengths of each chain. Future studies, including ones in this work, could therefore tune pore size and surface area for many applications. Carbon fibers with graphitic structure are inherently conductive and thereby attract charged molecules in a solution. Diffusion and capacity serve as major factors in these types of systems. With the aforementioned control of the carbon fibers a diffusion study was conducted with charged pollution ions. Owing to the conductive nature, a voltage supply was attached to the fibers, which would adsorb ions electrostatically, termed "electrosorption". The electrosorption performance within the carbon fibers elucidated the interconnected porous structure and how ions orientate themselves along the surface of the fibers. In addition, with the development of ion orientation along the surface of the fibers, a greater than 1:1 ratio of carbon weight to ion weight adsorbed developed owing to the diffusion and ion stacking capabilities. Additionally, the study provides deeper investigation into movement of ions within confined nano-porous material. The ever-growing need for renewable resources such as fresh water has pressured development into more efficient material. Solar desalination has attractive qualities which makes it a focus for micro-scale studies. One of the major limitations lies in the high energy input change liquid water into vapor. At 100 °C for boiling, desalination lacks sufficient efficiency for large-scale applications in evaporation. However, by utilizing nano-scale material, the fundamental properties of water can be altered. The carbon fibers were then created with various nano-pore sizes which revealed nano-confinement effects when subject to solar heating. With the shrinking of pore sizes, the density of water also decreased. A lower density means less energy was required to convert water from a liquid to a vapor state. The carbon fibers helped reveal real applications into confinement effects on water based on pore size. Apart from just desalination, this means future environmental application can utilize this knowledge for more effective and smart designs. The carbon fibers outstanding electrical and mechanical properties have spurred research and development since the mid-1900s. Since then, carbon fiber technologies have grown from facile and efficient productions means, to high end, high performance smart design. The work presented here furthers two major components: first, the high-performance design of porous carbon fiber; second, the fundamental principles in nano-material properties and their applications. By first constructing a design of polymer synthesis and then subsequent studies, development of nano-porous carbon energy progresses knowledge on smart and efficient designs. These materials provide a platform for future energy and environmental sciences.en
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectPorous carbonen
dc.subjectblock copolymeren
dc.subjectRAFT polymerizationen
dc.subjectsolar desalinationen
dc.subjectflexible electronicsen
dc.titleBlock Copolymer Derived Porous Carbon Fiber for Energy and Environmental Scienceen
dc.typeDissertationen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen of Philosophyen


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