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Posted: Apr 27, 2006
A practical method for the production of hollow carbon onion nanoparticles
(Nanowerk Spotlight) Carbon onions, which are made of concentric graphene spherical shells, are one of the possible carriers of the 217.5 nm interstellar absorption bump. They are also a potential solid lubricant similar to Tungstenite (WS2) nanoparticles having an onion-like structure. In addition, carbon onion nanoparticles are expected to have good prospects for other applications, such as the reinforcement of composite materials, magnetic storage media and wear-resistant materials.
Current techniques applied to fabricating hollow carbon onions, such as the dc arc-discharge, high-energy electron irradiation of carbonaceous materials, thermal treatment of fullerene black, and shock-wave treatment of carbon soots, can only be used to prepare a small quantity of hollow carbon onions or carbon onions with a mass of by-products, which are hardly separated from the product. Thus the investigation and possible application of carbon onions appear not very promising.
My research group at Tianjin University recently found a method for obtaining pure carbon onion nanoparticles in large quantities. We describe a practical method for the fabrication of hollow carbon onions by using nitric acid to dissolve the nickel from the carbon-coated nickel nanoparticles. In this method, the decomposition of methane in the presence of Ni/Al catalyst particles produces carbon nano-onions as the primary product. And the nanoparticles with nickel nanoparticle encapsulated are very easily purified to be hollow onions by the subsequent nitric acid treatment.
The method requires a relatively low energy input with the correct choice of catalyst precursor and purification time, thus making it industrially attractive. Previously, the lack of a suitable amount of carbon nano-onions has restricted the development of their applications, however we believe the described method is suitable for large-scale production.
(a) TEM image of the original carbon nanomaterials. It can be seen that the original carbon nanomaterials contain carbon onions with a hollow core and carbon-encapsulated metal nanoparticles; (b) TEM image of the purified carbon onions with core empty. (Source: Professor Zhao, Tianjin University)