Catalysis-free transformation of non-graphitising carbons into highly crystalline graphite

Jason L. Fogg, Kate J. Putman, Tianyi Zhang, Yu Lei, Mauricio Terrones, Peter J.F. Harris, Nigel A. Marks, Irene Suarez-Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


High-purity graphite is a sought-after material for lithium-ion batteries and graphene production. Most organic materials do not graphitise upon heating unless a metal catalyst is present. The catalyst becomes embedded in the graphite and is difficult to remove. Here, we present a catalysis-free technique capable of producing highly crystalline graphite from materials generally considered incapable of this transformation. Using the furnace inside an Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, we perform repeated high-temperature pulsing of polyvinylidene chloride followed by analysis with Raman, X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy. Unexpectedly, ~90% of the sample transforms into highly ordered graphite with very few defects. A combustion route is proposed in which oxygen attacks the structural units that inhibit graphitisation. We apply the same approach to cellulose and obtain ten times more ordered material than conventional furnaces, confirming that polyvinylidene chloride is not an isolated case. Potentially, this method could be used to synthesise graphite from any organic material, including waste sources such as biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number47
JournalCommunications Materials
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials


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