Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Materials Science and Engineering

Major Professor

James R. Morris

Committee Members

James R. Morris, Takeshi Egami, T. G. Nieh, Brian J. Edwards

Abstract

Nanoporous carbons are among the widely studied and promising materials on hydrogen storage for on-board vehicles. However, the nature of nanoporous carbon structures, as well as the relationship between local structure and hydrogen adsorption are still unclear, and hinder the design of carbon materials for optimum hydrogen storage. This dissertation presents a systematic modeling effort of hydrogen storage in nanoporous carbon materials. Tight binding molecular dynamics simulations are utilized to simulate the amorphous carbons over a wide range of density. The resulting structures are in good agreement with experimental data of ultra-microporous carbon (UMC), a wood-based activated carbon, as indicated by a comparison of the microstructure at atomic level, pair distribution function, and pore size distribution. To estimate gas adsorption in complex geometries, an efficient numerical algorithm (based on a continuum gas adsorption model) is developed for calculating the gas uptake at room temperature and moderate pressures. This algorithm is a classical approximation of the quantum mechanical model by Patchkovskii et al.1 and proven to be much faster than other commonly used methods. The gas adsorption calculations in carbon structures from tight-binding simulations demonstrate both a promising hydrogen storage capacity (1.33 wt% at 298K and 5 MPa) and a reasonable heat of adsorption (12-21 kJ/mol). To our knowledge, this is the first work to directly calculate hydrogen adsorption capacity in amorphous carbon. This work demonstrates that increasing the heat of adsorption does not necessarily increase the hydrogen uptake. In fact, the available adsorption volume is as important as the isosteric heat of adsorption for hydrogen storage in nanoporous carbons.

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