Main content area

Controlled electrochemical functionalization of CNT fibers: Structure-chemistry relations and application in current collector-free all-solid supercapacitors

Senokos, Evgeny, Rana, Moumita, Santos, Cleis, Marcilla, Rebeca, Vilatela, Juan J.
Carbon 2019 v.142 pp. 599-609
Raman spectroscopy, X-radiation, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, capacitance, carbon, carbon nanotubes, contact angle, electrochemistry, electrodes, electrolytes, energy, energy density, fabrics, hydrophilicity, hydrophobicity, moieties, oxidation, small-angle X-ray scattering, surface area, transmission electron microscopy
Chemical functionalization of nanocarbons is an important strategy to produce electrochemical systems with higher energy/power density by generating surface functional groups with additional faradaic contribution, by increasing their surface area and correspondent capacitive contribution and by improving compatibility with aqueous electrolytes and other active materials, such as pseudocapacitive metal-oxides. Here we present an electrochemical method to simultaneously swell and functionalize large electrodes consisting of fabrics of macroscopic fibers of carbon nanotubes that renders the material hydrophilic and produces a substantial increase of specific capacitance and energy density in aqueous electrolytes. Through in-depth characterization of the carbon nanotube fibres (CNTF) by Raman spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectrocn spectroscopy (XPS) and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) we identify various contributions to such improvements, including surface oxidation, tubular unzipping, debundling and inter-bundle swelling. Changes in hydrophilicity of functionalized CNTF are determined by analyzing the dynamics of spreading of polar and nonpolar liquids in the electrodes. The extracted contact angles and polar and dispersive surface energy components for different treatment conditions are in agreement with changes in dipole-moment obtained by XPS. Finally, functionalized CNTF electrodes were employed in current collector-free solid flexible supercapacitors, which show enhanced electrochemical properties compared to as-produced hydrophobic ones.