Carbon aerogels activity

At NFM Laboratory, Research and Development based on carbon aerogels and its applications such as catalyst for hydrogen isotope separation, water desalination, super capacitors and fuel cells is being pursued under carbon aerogel activity. Developmental works on metal doped and undoped carbon aerogels for achieving improved dispersion, surface area, meso-porosity, pore volume and conductivity for enhancement of catalytic and electrochemical activities are being carried out.

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Carbon aerogels: Synthesis and applications

The technology for the synthesis of carbon aerogels and metal loaded carbon aerogels has been developed. Critical point drying method has been replaced by surfactant based open air-drying methods to prepare these aerogels. High surface area carbon aerogels (CA) with surface area up to 2000 m2/g have been developed by ambient drying technique & utilizing CO2 activation. Further, various techniques have been developed to prepare different morphologies using carbon aerogels like Dixon rings of size 8 mm x 8 mm, thin large sheets of up to 200 mm x 200 mm, cylinders of up to 100 mm length, 30 mm diameter to suit the applications.

R-F Gel  
Pyrolysed carbon aerogel  
SEM of carbon aerogel

Following applications of carbon aerogels are being pursued in the laboratory:

Platinum loaded carbon aerogels (Pt-CA) have been used as catalyst in liquid phase catalytic exchange process. Pt-CA coated hydrophobic Dixon ring catalyst have been tested under dynamic conditions and obtained volume transfer coefficient of 0.4 to 0.8 s-1 at atmospheric pressure. The catalyst has shown stable performance up to a pressure of 20 bar(g). Mono-thermal & bi-thermal test facility for catalyst testing has been established in-house. In addition, rod catalyst is being tested for sample handling system of mass spectrometer for hydrogen isotope analysis of liquid samples.

Column efficiency performance of Dixon ring catalyst 
CA surface area (~2000 m2/g) evaluation: Isotherm & PSD 
Sketch of Mono-thermal catalyst test facility 
TEM of Pt-CA  
Pt-CA coated Dixon ring 

Conducting carbon aerogel electrodes of size up to 200 mm x 200 mm have been synthesized for desalination application. Specific capacitance and salt sorption capacity were found to be in the range of 80-110 F/g and 8.4 mg/gram of active electrode material respectively.

Glass rod catalyst for D/H-MS 
Graphite supported CA electrode 

Pt-CA with 20% Pt loading (20% PtCA) material has been developed for fuel cell application which has showed good catalytic activity with onset potential of 964 mV and half wave potential of 814 mV towards oxygen reduction reaction kinetics. A membrane electrode assembly fabricated with the prepared catalyst tested in PEMFCs (H2-O2) single celll showed power density of 536 mWcm-2 at 0.6V at 60°C under atmospheric pressure conditions.

20% RuO2-CA loaded carbon aerogel has shown specific capacitance of 256 F/g for supercapacitor application.

20% Pt-CA performance for fuel cell studies 
Specific capacitance evaluation of RuO2-CA 

X-ray emission studies have been conducted at BARC, Mumbai using carbon aerogel targets. The X-ray emission in the soft x-ray region was observed to increase to about 1.8 times and 2.3 times in pure and Pt doped carbon aerogel targets respectively as compared to solid carbon.

SEM of craters formed with 8J/500 ps laser in CA substrates. 
SEM of craters formed with 8J/500 ps laser in Pt-CA substrates. 

Major facilities

  • Physisorption Equipment.
  • Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (FESEM).
  • Potentiostat for electrochemical studies.
  • Atomic force microscope.
  • D/H Mass spectrometer.
  • Inert atmosphere furnaces & Ovens.
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