Synthesis and Properties of Transition Metal Carbides from Structured Carbon Precursors

Madsen, Kenneth
As the world's energy demands continue to increase the search for efficient and renewable means of generating power must grow to meet them. A significant portion of this research aims to develop improved electro catalysts, which could serve as a replacement for traditional precious metal catalysts in hydrogen fuel cells. One class of materials under investigation is transition metal carbides. These materials show high catalytic activity and are vastly less expensive than precious metal catalysts such as platinum and ruthenium. Regardless of which catalyst is being used good control over the composition and structure of the material is necessary to produce high activity. Carbide materials are typically synthesized by a high temperature solid-state reaction, making control over the morphology of the product very difficult. This investigation seeks to develop techniques to control the morphology of metal carbides by structural variation of the carbon precursor. Through a salt flux mediated high temperature synthetic route we have demonstrated that the variation of the morphology of starting materials does affect the morphology of the product. Moreover, we observe that at sufficiently low temperatures (<1000˚C) we can maintain the morphology of the starting material throughout the reaction. We have demonstrated this with a variety of structures including carbon buckypaper, graphene nano-platelets, and carbon microspheres.
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