Fabian Villalobos1 Andrew Patalano1 Evan Jauregui1 Zhongxuan Zhang1 Maria Renteria2 Mihri Ozkan1 Cengiz Ozkan1

1, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, California, United States
2, California State University, Bakersfield, Bakersfield, California, United States

A 3 step process (mixing, curing, and annealing) was used to grow graphite encapsulated Fe nanoparticles within a porous carbon matrix. Herein we report on the synthesis and growth mechanism of this material and its relation to the growth mechanism of carbon nanotubes using catalytic metal nanoparticles. This mechanism enabled the synthesis of new variants of the metal carbon sponge replacing the Fe nanoparticles with Co, Ni, Cu, Ag, and Al. These new metal carbon sponges were characterized to elucidate the difference between the metals used in the synthesis and the morphology and properties they exhibit. A crystallographic analysis by XRD revealed the presence of graphite encapsulation in the Co and Ni variants while absent from Cu, Ag, and Al. This is due to the high carbon solubility in Fe, Co, and Ni, and low solubility in Cu, Au, and Al which also predicts the metals suitable for catalysis of carbon nanotubes. XRD and EDS also reveals the crystallinity and purity of the metal nanoparticles as well as the role of hydrogen in the annealing of the gelatinous carbon resin precursor. TEM also provides analysis of the metal particle structure using electron diffraction. BET was used to investigate surface area and porosity differences between the variants. This research promises a method to synthesize light-weight porous carbon structures with customizable properties based on the metal chosen for applications as varied as catalysis, electrochemistry, oil separation and sorption, and porous graphene nanoarchitectures from environmentally benign and sustainable precursors in an easily scalable manufacturing process.