Black perspectives for a green future: hydrothermal carbons for environment protection and energy storage

Maria-Magdalena Titirici , Robin. J. White , Camillo Falco and Marta Sevilla
Energy & Environmental Science, Issue 5, 2012

Abstract

This perspective review paper provides an overview on recently developed carbon material technology synthesised from the hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) approach, with a particular focus on the carbon formation mechanism, perspectives on large scale production, nanostructuring, functionalisation and applications. Perceptions on how this technology will be developed especially with regard to application fields where the use of HTC-derived materials could be extended will also be introduced and discussed.

Additional information:

Hydrothermal Carbonization is an alternative technique to classical carbonization, able to convert lignocellulosic biomass into technologically important carbon materials.  The carbonization takes place in water at mild temperatures (130-250°C) and under self-generated pressures (10-30 bars) in close containers.

The resulting materials can be shaped either as micro- or nanoparticles, hollow spheres[2] or monoliths. [3] Porosity can be easily introduced and tuned in order to produce macro- to meso- to- micro-porous materials. [4] These materials can be easily functionalized, [5] heteroatom doped [6] or combined with inorganic precursors to obtain interesting composites.[7] Upon additional heat treatment (i.e. 900°C), the materials become electrically conductive, up to 700 Sm-1. [8]

The resulting materials found already a wide range of applications from soil fertilizers[9] to efficient adsorbents for water purification[10],  luminescent carbon quantum dots, [11] catalyst supports[12], templates for producing nanostructured  metal oxides, [13]  selective CO2 adsorbents, [12] electrodes in supercapacitors, [14]  Li [15] and Na[16] ion batteries and metal free catalysts in the oxygen reduction reaction. [17]

In addition, the liquid phase resulting upon conversion of biomass into useful carbons can be efficiently exploited for its potential to generate useful chemicals and biofuels. [18]

Besides its technological value, this technique can also be regarded as an efficient way to sequester CO2 from the fast growing biomass. [19]

[1]        Titirici et al, Green Chem. 2011, 13 (11), 3273

[2]        White et al,  J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 2011, 132, 17360

[3]        White et al, Green Chem. 2011, 13, 2428

[4]        Titirici et al, ChemSusChem 2010, 3, 188

[5]        Titirici et al, Journal of Materials Chemistry 2007, 17, 3412

[6]        Wohlgemuth et al Green Chemistry 2012, 14, 741

[7]        Titirici et al, Chem. Comm. 2008, 999

[8]        Titirici et al, Polymer 2010, 51, 4540

[9]        Rillig et al, Applied Soil Ecology 2010, 45, 238

[10]      Titirici et al, Chemistry of Materials 2009, 21, 484

[11]      Travas-Sejdic et al, Chemistry of Materials 2009, 21, 5563

[12]      Matos et al, Applied Catalysis a-General 2010, 390, 175

[13]      Titirici et alChemistry of Materials 2006, 18, 3808

[14]      Titirici et al, Advanced Materials, 2010, 22, 5202

[15]      K. Tang et al, ChemSusChem 2012, 5, 400

[16]      K. Tang et al, Advanced Energy Materials 2012, 2, 873

[17]      Wohlgemuthet al, Green Chemistry 2012, 14, 1515

[18]      Kopetzki et alGreen Chemistry 2010, 12, 656

[19]      Antonietti et al, New Journal of Chemistry 2007, 31, 787

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