In-situ fabrication of carbon-metal fabrics as freestanding electrodes for high-performance flexible energy storage devices

Xinhua Liu, Mengzheng Ouyang, Marcin W. Orzech, Yubiao Niu, Weiqiang Tang, Jingyi Chen, Max Naylor Marlow, Debashis Puhan, Marnix Wagemaker, More Authors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Hierarchical 1D carbon structures are attractive due to their mechanical, chemical and electrochemical properties however the synthesis of these materials can be costly and complicated. Here, through the combination of inexpensive acetylacetonate salts of Ni, Co and Fe with a solution of polyacrylonitrile (PAN), self-assembling carbon-metal fabrics (CMFs) containing unique 1D hierarchical structures can be created via easy and low-cost heat treatment without the need for costly catalyst deposition nor a dangerous hydrocarbon atmosphere. Microscopic and spectroscopic measurements show that the CMFs form through the decomposition and exsolution of metal nanoparticle domains which then catalyze the formation of carbon nanotubes through the decomposition by-products of the PAN. These weakly bound nanoparticles form structures similar to trichomes found in plants, with a combination of base-growth, tip-growth and peapod-like structures, where the metal domain exhibits a core(graphitic)-shell(disorder) carbon coating where the thickness is in-line with the metal-carbon binding energy. These CMFs were used as a cathode in a flexible zinc-air battery which exhibited superior performance to pure electrospun carbon fibers, with their metallic nanoparticle domains acting as bifunctional catalysts. This work therefore unlocks a potentially new category of composite metal-carbon fiber based structures for energy storage applications and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-336
JournalEnergy Storage Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Carbon
  • Carbon-metal fabrics
  • Electrospinning
  • Flexible batteries
  • Metal-air batteries
  • Nanofibers
  • Non-woven


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