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Creating Precise Porous Carbon Fibers

Materials Science: Patterned arenes help researchers control a fiber’s pore size on the angstrom scale

by Matt Davenport
May 11, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 19

A scheme showing construction of porous carbon fiber walls.
Oxidizing pillar[6]arenes allowed researchers to form porous sheets that can be carbonized at high temperature.

Scientists generally avoid regarding any material with undue reverence, but a research team in Japan has introduced carbon structures that are undeniably holey. Porous carbon structures provide large surface areas and chemical stability, making them attractive materials for electrodes and catalytic scaffolds. However, scientists have lacked a reliable way to control the pore size. Tomoki Ogoshi of Kanazawa University and coworkers may have just changed that by creating carbon fibers full of pores forged with angstrom-level precision (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201501854). The researchers started with a solution of phenolic macromolecules they had developed previously, called pillar[6]arenes, and partially oxidized the hexagonal structures using hypervalent iodine. The oxidized edges of the pillar[6]arenes bear benzoquinone groups that form charge-transfer complexes with unaltered hydroquinone groups on neighboring arenes. The molecules thus assemble into two-dimensional honeycomb lattices, which stack into 3-D fibers. The team extracted the fibers from solution and charred them at 900 °C, creating structures that contain more than 90% carbon and pores that preserve the diameter of the pillar[6]arene’s interior cavity, which is just larger than 4 Å.


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