Highly ordered macroporous woody biochar with ultra-high carbon content as supercapacitor electrodes

Junhua Jiang, Lei Zhang, Xinying Wang, Nancy Holm, Kishore Rajagopalan, Fanglin Chen, Shuguo Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Woody biochar monolith with ultra-high carbon content and highly ordered macropores has been prepared via one-pot pyrolysis and carbonization of red cedar wood at 750 C without the need of post-treatment. Energy-dispersive spectroscope (EDX) and scanning electron microscope (SEM) studies show that the original biochar has a carbon content of 98 wt% with oxygen as the only detectable impurity and highly ordered macroporous texture characterized by alternating regular macroporous regions and narrow porous regions. Moreover, the hierarchically porous biochar monolith has a high BET specific surface area of approximately 400 m2 g-1. We have studied the monolith material as supercapacitor electrodes under acidic environment using electrochemical and surface characterization techniques. Electrochemical measurements show that the original biochar electrodes have a potential window of about 1.3 V and exhibit typical rectangular-shape voltammetric responses and fast charging-discharging behavior with a gravimetric capacitance of about 14 F g-1. Simple activation of biochar in diluted nitric acid at room temperature leads to 7 times increase in the capacitance (115 F g-1). Because the HNO3-activation slightly decreases rather than increases the BET surface area of the biochar, an increase in the coverage of surface oxygen groups is the most likely origin of the substantial capacitance improvement. This is supported by EDX, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and Raman measurements. Preliminary life-time studies show that biochar supercapacitors using the original and HNO3-activated electrodes are stable over 5000 cycles without performance decays. These facts indicate that the use of woody biochar is promising for its low cost and it can be a good performance electrode with low environmental impacts for supercapacitor applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-489
Number of pages9
JournalElectrochimica Acta
StatePublished - 2013


  • Biochar electrode
  • Hierarchical pore network
  • Macroporous electrode
  • Supercapacitor
  • Wood monolith

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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