Research ArticleAPPLIED SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING

Exceptional capacitive deionization rate and capacity by block copolymer–based porous carbon fibers

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Science Advances  17 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 16, eaaz0906
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz0906

Abstract

Capacitive deionization (CDI) is energetically favorable for desalinating low-salinity water. The bottlenecks of current carbon-based CDI materials are their limited desalination capacities and time-consuming cycles, caused by insufficient ion-accessible surfaces and retarded electron/ion transport. Here, we demonstrate porous carbon fibers (PCFs) derived from microphase-separated poly(methyl methacrylate)-block-polyacrylonitrile (PMMA-b-PAN) as an effective CDI material. PCF has abundant and uniform mesopores that are interconnected with micropores. This hierarchical porous structure renders PCF a large ion-accessible surface area and a high desalination capacity. In addition, the continuous carbon fibers and interconnected porous network enable fast electron/ion transport, and hence a high desalination rate. PCF shows desalination capacity of 30 mgNaCl g−1PCF and maximal time-average desalination rate of 38.0 mgNaCl g−1PCF min−1, which are about 3 and 40 times, respectively, those of typical porous carbons. Our work underlines the promise of block copolymer–based PCF for mutually high-capacity and high-rate CDI.

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