Electrochemical Applications of Nano-Structured Carbons

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Jeffrey Martin

Abstract

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been assessed for their use in electrochemical energy storage applications, namely Hydrogen Storage and Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries. Furthermore;fundamental electrochemical studies have been conducted on aligned arrays of carbon nanotubes, and for the first time electrochemistry on pure, defect free, single layer graphene is reported.CNTs have been assessed for their potential as an electrochemical hydrogen storage material,finding a maximum recorded capacity for a single walled nanotube sample (SWNT) that was comparable to literature gas phase adsorption values. In-situ Raman spectroelectrochemistry was used to probe structural changes of the SWNTs with applied potential: no chemical functionalisation of the tubes or intercalation of protons was observed. It was concluded, therefore, that CNTs present no unique electrochemical hydrogen storage ability, other than their role as an adsorbent for gaseous hydrogen, which was evolved electrochemically. CNTs were also assessed as a possible electrode material for the VO(2+)/VO2(+) reaction, used in the positive half cell of commercial vanadium redox flow batteries and widely reported to exhibit quasi-reversible kinetics on carbon electrodes. Initial investigations revealed apparently reversible kinetics using a SWNT, the first time such a response has been observed on Carbon, and in contradiction to published work using CNTs for this application. Analysis via a range of electrochemical techniques highlighted the difficulty in using cyclic voltammetry to assess reversibility, particularly for CNT modified electrodes. The system was subsequently found to be quasi-reversible, with the deceptively small peak separation inferred to arise from the pores of the CNT electrode, therefore thin layer cell behaviour was observed. The porous contribution was confirmed using an electrode exhibiting poor kinetics (very small, indistinct Faradaic peaks), increasing the electrode porosity (using an aligned array of CNT) had a remarkable effect, with large Faradaic peaks (low separation ˜ 0.02-0.04 V) observed for a sample that was chemically identical. This work highlights the fundamental error in a portion of CNT literature, where kinetic enhancement is quantified by voltammetric peak separation, which can be erroneous unless the inherent porosity of the electrodes is considered.In contrast to the complexity of CNTs, graphene represents an ideal electrode material, allowing for direct determination of the electrochemical response of the graphene basal plane, eliminating the contribution of edge sites. An initial investigation towards this goal is presented.

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Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Aug 2010