The IIT team found that carbon ‘flowers’
One of two carbon nanoflowers observed The IIT team found that carbon ‘flowers’ under a microscope. Ananya Shah and Chandramouli Subramaniam. Researchers at IIT Bombay have created molecules that absorb three frequencies of sunlight and convert it into heat with 87% efficiency. These particles can be deposited on surfaces to heat homes and disinfect surfaces in hospitals. The researchers have applied for a patent.
- To assemble “blacker than black” carbon nanostructures, Ananya Sah and C. Subramaniam with white substance. In Professor Subramaniam’s lab at the Indian Institute of Technology(IIT ) Bombay, Dr. Sah heated a special form of silicon dust called DFNS (for dendritic nanosilica) in a furnace. Once heated, it introduces acetylene gas into the chamber. The white powder turns black, which is a sign of carbon deposition in the DFNS.
- She (IIT ) then collected the black powder and treated it with a harsh chemical to dissolve the DFNS, leaving the carbon particles behind.
- The structure of silicone particles – which range in size from 50 to 1,200 nanometers – resembles dots arranged around a sphere. After removing the silicone filling, small carbon balls remain, the surface of which is pierced in a cone shape. In fact, these particles are spherical nanostructures made up of carbon cones.
- Unprecedented effectiveness
- When Dr. Sah and Professor Subramaniam (IIT) examined some of these spheres under a microscope, they were struck by the appearance of the particles: like little plush, made entirely of carbon. They call this material carbon nanoflowers. In a paper published in September in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a team led by Professor Subramaniam claimed that these nanoflowers can absorb sunlight at multiple frequencies and convert it into heat with unprecedented efficiency.
The magazine notes that nanoflowers also do not dissipate heat generated in the environment easily, making the material a good candidate for heating other materials, such as water, using solar energy.
Vivek Pulshettiwar, a professor of chemistry at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai and leader of the team that invented DFNS in 2010, told this author that the research findings highlight molecules with “excellent social utility.”
- Two different technologies
- According to Professor Pulchettiwar, this is not the first time such carbon nanomaterials have been manufactured. In 2018, his team reported identical structures called “wrinkled caged carbon nanotubes.”
- But he added that he and Prof. Subramaniam’s work differs in the techniques used to deposit carbon onto the DFNS model (although this does not affect the properties of the product).
- Teacher. Pulshettiwar’s group used formaldehyde-phenol polymerization chemistry while Professor Subramaniam’s group used chemical vapor deposition (CVD). In CVD, volatile compounds such as acetylene are used to deposit a thin layer of carbon on a silicon dust sample.
- No risks have been found so far
- “Because this material can be applied to many different surfaces, it can heat surfaces that use sunlight. If you use cladding with this material to heat your home, you will be doing so in an environmentally friendly way while also reducing your carbon footprint,” Dr. Kanakia adds. According to a press release issued by the institute, Professor Subramaniam’s team discovered that nanoflowers can be applied to paper, metal and fired clay. Professor Subramaniam also said the nanosheets pose no inhalation risk: “Once applied, the adhesion is almost as good as paint on a wall.” When testing the stability of the paint, they found that its lifespan was at least 8 years. Professor Pulchettiwar agreed and added that further testing could determine whether the coating could degrade more quickly with increased temperature or sunlight.
Effective heating solution
According to Dr. Kanakia, who studied electrical engineering at IIT Bombay, it is remarkable that a professor who starts with a fundamental discovery actually wants to go beyond writing an academic paper and find an application that can be used in the real world. “We need more researchers like this in our education system.”
Teacher. Subramaniam is currently building a startup that will be incubated by IIT Bombay. Their first goal is to increase production of this coating, which they will then sell to companies looking for efficient heating solutions. Researchers are also studying other physical and chemical properties and potential applications of nanoflowers. “Thanks to its unique structural and morphological properties, we believe it has many unexplored applications,” Dr. Sah said.
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