Electrospun carbon nanofibers for electrochemical capacitor electrodes
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The objective of this work is to electrospin poly(acrylonitrile) (PAN) based nanofibers with controlled diameter and to stabilize and carbonize them for developing meso-porous carbon for application as electrochemical capacitor electrodes. A sacrificial polymer, poly(styrene-co-acrylonitrile) (SAN) has been used to control porosity. Carbon nanotubes (CNT) have been used to increase electrode conductivity and hence power density. The study has been divided into two parts. In part I, electrospinning behavior of PAN and PAN/CNT has been studied. The diameter of electrospun PAN fibers was monitored as a function of polymer molecular weight, solution concentration, solution flow rate, distance between the spinneret and the target, and the applied voltage. Bead free PAN fibers of 60 nm diameter have been electrospun. Various electrospun fibers have been characterized by wide angle X-ray diffraction and by Raman spectroscopy. Electrospinning process has been observed by high speed photography. In part II, the electrospun PAN, PAN/SAN, and PAN/SAN/CNT fiber mats were stabilized, carbonized, and processed into electrochemical capacitor electrodes. The performance of the electrochemical capacitors was tested by the constant current charge/discharge and cyclic voltammetry in 6 molar potassium hydroxide aqueous solution. The surface area and pore size distribution of the electrodes were measured using N2 adsorption and desorption. The effect of surface area and pore size distribution on the capacitance performance has been studied. The capacitance performance of various carbonized electrospun fibers mats have been compared to those of the PAN/SAN/CNT film, carbon nanotube bucky paper, and activated carbon pellet. The capacitance of PAN/SAN/CNT fiber mat over 200 F/g (at a current density of 1 A/g) and the power density approaching 1 kW/kg have been observed. Addition of 1 wt% carbon nanotubes in PAN/SAN, improves the power density by a factor of four. For comparison, the capacitance of single wall carbon nanotube bucky paper at a current density of 1 A/g is about 50 F/g.