New paper on a more environmentally friendly method for carbon spherogel synthesis published in Energy Advances

New paper published in Energy Advances from our continued collaboration with Michael Elsaesser (Paris Lodron Universität Salzburg) on carbon spherogels. Custom-designed nanoporous carbon materials enhance sustainable electrochemical technologies by offering better performance and efficiency. Carbon spherogels, which are highly porous carbon aerogel materials made up of a network of hollow carbon nanospheres with consistent diameters, are particularly promising. They offer unique advantages, including superior electrical conductivity, customizable porosity, adjustable shell thickness, and extensive surface area. In this work, we present a new, eco-friendlier approach to producing carbon spherogels using a sol-gel process that templates resorcinol-formaldehyde (RF) with polystyrene spheres in an organic solvent. By adjusting the molar ratio of resorcinol to isopropyl alcohol (R/IPA) and the polystyrene concentration, we identified the optimal conditions for creating carbon spherogels with tunable wall thicknesses. A simplified solvent exchange method from deionized water to isopropyl alcohol was developed to reduce surface tension in the gel’s pores, making this method both time and cost-efficient. The use of isopropyl alcohol, with its lower surface tension, allows for solvent extraction at room temperature and direct carbonization of RF gels with less than 20% loss in specific surface area compared to those dried supercritically. The resulting materials have specific surface areas ranging from 2300 to 3600 m2/g, as confirmed by transmission and scanning electron microscopy, which also demonstrated their uniform, hollow spherical network structure. Notably, these carbon spherogels act as high-performance electrodes for energy storage in supercapacitors, achieving a specific capacitance of up to 204 F/g at 200 mA/g with a 1 M potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution as the electrolyte.