Friday, 26 July 2019

Carbon conference 2019: football nanotube, great science and Madame Oberlin

Last month I visited the United States to attend the Carbon conference 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky with 400+ attendees. It was a great week of talks and discussions. I have briefly outlined some of the exciting findings in the field and some fun aspects of the week.

One of the conference jokes was that it was the most memorable carbon conference yet. Due to the fire at the conference venue and hotel on the night before the conference, flooding on the first day of the conference and a small earthquake on the second day. Many thanks to the conference organisers who did a heroic job!

The football nanotube

Carbon scientists have famously used the football to describe the geometry of the buckminsterfullerene molecule C60 since it was discovered as the seams describe the geometry of the bonds in the molecule, shown below.


While at the Carbon conference 2019 Dr Fiona Smail spotted and photographed a carbon nanotube football in an art gallery by Brazilian artist Felipe Barbosa.

This represents an elongated fullerene or a carbon nanotube, which I have drawn below for comparison.

What exciting research was presented?

I cannot detail all of the interesting talks I attended but I will just highlight some exciting results that caught my attention.

Prof. Deborah Chung presented her results showing that isotropic carbons and carbon fibres possess conductive electrets. Electets are domains with permanent dipole moments within materials that orient within an electric field and retain their electric polarisation after the electric field is removed. What makes electrets unique in carbon materials is that they are embedded within a conductive material allowing for DC current to flow through the material allowing them to act as sensors or even generate power. More can be read here and here. A link was made during the conference to my recent work on the flexoelectric effect, which shows that bowl-shaped regions give rise to a permanent dipole moment in carbon materials.

Prof. Marc Monthioux presented work on developing thin layer diamond-like films and showed Raman spectroscopy evidence for these diamonoids structures. Some preliminary work can be read here and a preprint is also available

Dr Phillipe Ouzilleau (with Prof. Monthioux) presented work on a model for the process of graphitising carbons. The critical aspect of the work was distinguishing annealable and non-annealable defects. The later leading to non-graphitising carbons. These non-annealable defects are considered to arise due to curvature integration. More can be read here. This ties into the work I presented on how negative Gaussian curvature provides connected layered 3D graphene structures. 

Prof. Vander Wal showed the use of laser heating to distinguish different soot nanostructures. More amorphous soot can be distinguished by the formation of single shell structures or multiple shell, flower-like structure. More can be read here and here.

Dr Joseph Abrahamson (with Prof. Vander Wal) presented on the laser heating of carbon materials to explore their graphitisation finding a transformation to fullerene-like nanostructures before further transformation to a ribbon-like nanostructure. More can be read here. Dr Abrahamson also showed how the integration of curvature into carbon materials due to oxygen loss providing a pentagon gives rise to non-graphitising carbons while the loss of oxygen that provides hexagons leads to a graphitising carbon. More can be read here.

Prof. Murray Thomson presented a detailed particle model simulation for carbon black synthesis. More can be read here.

Dr. Adam Boies and Dr. Fiona Smail presented their work on understanding the fundamental aspects of carbon nanotube aerogels formation. Their recent review article is worth a read.

Prof. Mathews and colleagues presented a million atom model for soot reconstructed from HRTEM images. More can be read here. 

Prof. Mauricio Terrones presented a very nice review plenary on the future of carbon science. The full review has recently been published.

What did we present?

I was fortunate to be given three talks to present at the conference. The first was on my work on soot formation in flames. The second talk was on the lack of fullerenes in fullerene-like carbons. My last talk was on the topology of disordered graphenes. The talk slides are embedded below.

Angiras my colleague also presented on the optical properties of curved, crosslinked and radical PAH molecules. Between us, we also presented work from our colleagues Laura Pascazio and Kimberly Bowal who were unable to make it to the conference on "Investigating the self-assembly and structure of nanoparticles containing curved carbons" and "Degree of crosslinking in combustion carbons" respectively.

Link to the papers 1, 2, 3

Link to papers 1, 2

Link to papers 1, 2, 3, 4

I was also very fortunate to be given the Mrozowski Award for best oral presentation from a student.

Madame Oberlin

Agnès Oberlin (1925 - 2019)

On the fourth day of the conference, there was a very moving and comprehensive memorial for Agnès Oberlin (known in the community as Madame Oberlin). Stories were told of her dancing with Rosalind Franklin in Paris. Franklin interested her in carbon materials and the problem of graphitisability. She was provided with the second transmission electron microscopy available in Europe during her PhD and for the rest of her career focused on exploring the nanostructure of carbon materials using this instrument. Some of her remarkable contributions were surrounding the transformations of carbon materials during the process of graphitisation, understanding the formation of alignment during carbonisation - mesophase and the structure of carbon fibres and non-graphitising carbon. The carbon journal has a tribute written from her colleagues and friends, which provides an in-depth look into her many contributions (link).

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