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Highly Dispersible Microporous Carbon Particles from Furfuryl Alcohol

J. Liu, J-F Yaoa, H-T Wanga and K-Y Chan
The University of Sydney, AU

microporous carbon, nanoparticle, polymer

Molecular sieve carbons (MSCs or carbon molecular sieves) are a class of microporous, amorphous high-carbon materials, and they share with zeolites the ability to distinguish molecules on the basis of size and shape. MSCs have been studied as gas-selective adsorbents and membranes for various gas separations involving air separation and natural gas purification, for membrane reactor, and as electrode materials in lithium ion batteries and fuel cells. Obviously MSC nanoparticles are highly desirable for the purpose of improving adsorption-desorption efficiency of existing MSCs, and open new applications such as for developing practical MSC-polymer nanocomposite membranes. Here we present a novel approach to the synthesis of MSC nanoparticles that can be readily dispersed in various solvents. Polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA) is chosen as a precursor of MSC nanoparticles. An amphiphilic triblock copolymer, P123 [(EO)20(PO)70(EO)20], is used to control formation of PFA particles in the course of polymerization of furfuryl alcohol (FA). Sol-gel silica is employed as sacrificial barrier to prevent nanoparticle aggregation during drying and carbonization. The MSC nanoparticles as-synthesized exhibited a size distribution ranging from 25-90 nm, well-defined microporosity and high-dispersibility in organic solvents. It is believed that the technique developed here is unique and very effective for large-scale synthesis of nanosized microporous carbon materials.

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