Nanomaterials (Basel). 2023 Aug 18;13(16):2364. doi: 10.3390/nano13162364.
In this work, we study the influence of reduced graphene oxide (rGO) on the morphology and chemistry of highly porous N,S-doped carbon cryogels. Simultaneously, we propose an easily upscalable route to prepare such carbons by adding graphene oxide (GO) in as-received suspended form to the aqueous solution of the ι-carrageenan and urea precursors. First, 1.25-5 wt% GO was incorporated into the dual-doped polymer matrix. The CO2, CO, and H2O emitted during the thermal treatments resulted in the multifaceted modification of the textural and chemical properties of the porous carbon. This facilitated the formation of micropores through self-activation and resulted in a substantial increase in the apparent surface area (up to 1780 m2/g) and pore volume (up to 1.72 cm3/g). However, adding 5 wt% GO led to overactivation. The incorporated rGO has an ordering effect on the carbon matrix. The evolving oxidative species influence the surface chemistry in a complex way, but sufficient N and S atoms (ca. 4 and >1 at%, respectively) were preserved in addition to the large number of developing defects. Despite the complexity of the textural and chemical changes, rGO increased the electrical conductivity monotonically. In alkaline oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) tests, the sample with 1.25 wt% GO exhibited a 4e- mechanism and reasonable stability, but a higher rGO content gradually compromised the performance of the electrodes. The sample containing 5 wt% GO was the most sensitive under oxidative conditions, but after stabilization it exhibited the highest gravimetric capacitance. In Li-ion battery tests, the coulombic efficiency of all the samples was consistently above 98%, indicating the high potential of these carbons for efficient Li-ion insertion and reinsertion during the charge-discharge process, thereby providing a promising alternative for graphite-based anodes. The cell from the 1.25 wt% GO sample showed an initial discharge capacity of 313 mAh/g, 95.1% capacity retention, and 99.3% coulombic efficiency after 50 charge-discharge cycles.