Resonant enhancement of photo-induced superconductivity in K3C60


Photo-excitation at terahertz and mid-infrared frequencies has emerged as an effective way to manipulate functionalities in quantum materials, in some cases creating non-equilibrium phases that have no equilibrium analogue. In K3C60, a metastable zero-resistance phase was observed that has optical properties, nonlinear electrical transport and pressure dependencies compatible with non-equilibrium high-temperature superconductivity. Here we demonstrate a two-orders-of-magnitude increase in photo-susceptibility near 10 THz excitation frequency. At these drive frequencies, a metastable superconducting-like phase is observed up to room temperature. The discovery of a dominant frequency scale sheds light on the microscopic mechanism underlying photo-induced superconductivity. It also indicates a path towards steady-state operation, limited at present by the availability of a suitable high-repetition-rate optical source at these frequencies.

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Defective graphene decorated with TiO2 nanoparticles as negative electrode in Li-ion batteries



In this work, the performance of novel negative electrodes for Li-ion batteries based on defective graphene synthesized via a scalable thermal exfoliation of graphite oxide and decorated with TiO2 nanoparticles is investigated. Titania polymorphs are interesting as battery electrode materials, owing to their high cycle stability, safety, abundance and negligible solid electrolyte interphase formation and volume changes upon cycling. Defective graphene, on the other hand, can embed TiO2 nanoparticles, forming a conductive hybrid nanocomposite anode material for Li-ion batteries, with improved Li-ion and electron transport, optimising power density. Here we propose two different synthetic approaches for the decoration of graphene with TiO2 nanoparticles: I) a novel chemical route where TiO2 nanoparticles, mainly anatase, were grown on graphene in hydrothermal mild conditions and II) a physical solid-state approach where hydrothermal TiO2 nanoparticles and graphene were mixed together via high energy ball-milling. The synthesized materials were analysed via powder X-ray diffraction, micro-Raman spectroscopy and HR-TEM, while the electrodes were electrochemically tested. Operando synchrotron diffraction was conducted on half-cell to investigate phase transitions in the electrode materials. Even in presence of small amount of graphene, significant improvement in capacity, reversibility, and high-rate capability were observed. In particular, the sample obtained through the addition of 1 wt% of graphene displayed a reversible capacity of more than 180 mA h/g after prolonged and wearing cycling. This result outperforms by 327 % the reversible capacity of pure TiO2 electrode.

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Graphene-Based Magnetocaloric Composites for Energy Conversion

Herein, a simple, versatile, and cost-effective method to fabricate innovative thermal conductive magnetocaloric (MC) composites, which offers a smart solution to manufacture active elements with desired geometries, overcoming the current thermal and mechanical limits of the most studied MC materials, is presented. The composite is prepared by embedding powder of a MC material in an epoxy matrix enriched with a graphene-based material, obtained by thermal exfoliation of graphite oxide. The graphene-enriched composite shows a significant improvement of the MC time response to the magnetic field, due to the formation of a 3D network that bridges the MC particles and reduces the metal–matrix contact resistance, thus creating a percolation path for an efficient heat transfer. Because of the simplicity and scalability of the preparation method and the great enhancement in response time, these new functional composites represent an important step for the effective application of MC materials in thermomagnetic devices for the energy conversion.

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Zn-doped titania nanoparticles as building blocks for solid foam filters of water and air via photocatalytic oxidation

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Photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) could provide energy-efficient purification of water and air. Its efficacy is constrained mainly by limited photocatalytic activity and active surface. To address both, solid foams with hierarchic porous structures spanning multiple length-scales, stabilized by photocatalytic Zn-doped titania nanoparticles (NP) were synthesized and tested. The NP were characterized by SEM, EDS, DLS, XRD, Raman and UV–Vis spectroscopies. Solid foams were stabilized by NP complexes with cationic surfactants. The foam morphology was characterized and photocatalytic activity was demonstrated in water. The present work paves the way for the development of efficient systems for air and water purification in demanding technological sectors, such as aerospace.

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Combined capacitive and electrochemical charge storage mechanism in high-performance graphene-based lithium-ion batteries

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Improvements in lithium (Li)-ion battery technology can be achieved by developing novel, high-performance electrode materials. Graphene appears to be a good candidate as an anode material for Li-ion batteries thanks to the similarity with graphite, the good electrical conductivity, the ability to achieve fast charge and discharge cycles, and the higher capability to host Li ions. Our previous studies demonstrated the capability of intercalating Li in graphene-based electrodes with a high specific capacity of 500 mA h/g at C/5 current. In this study, graphene, synthesized through scalable thermal exfoliation of graphite oxide, and hydrogenated graphene are used to assemble optimized Li-ion half-cells, which are systematically characterized by means of electrochemical measurements. Hydrogenated graphene boasts an impressive reversible specific capacity with fast charge/discharge capabilities, exceeding 370 mA h/g even at 25 C rate. Diffusion mechanisms of Li are characterized at different states of intercalation by means of electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. In addition, a novel combined electrostatic and electrochemical charge storage mechanism of Li ions in graphene-based electrodes is proposed, based on three-electrode cyclic voltammetry investigation. Furthermore, graphene and hydrogenated graphene anodes are paired with commercial cathode materials to study the feasibility of their application to full cells.

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Evidence for metastable photo-induced superconductivity in K3C60

Excitation of high-Tc cuprates and certain organic superconductors with intense far-infrared optical pulses has been shown to create non-equilibrium states with optical properties that are consistent with transient high-temperature superconductivity.
These non-equilibrium phases have been generated using femtosecond drives, and have been observed to disappear immediately after excitation, which is evidence of states that lack intrinsic rigidity. Here we make use of a new optical device to drive metallic K3C60 with mid-infrared pulses of tunable duration, ranging between one picosecond and one nanosecond. The same superconducting-like optical properties observed over short time windows for femtosecond excitation are shown here to become metastable under sustained optical driving, with lifetimes in excess of ten nanoseconds. Direct electrical probing, which becomes possible at these timescales, yields a vanishingly small resistance with the same relaxation time as that estimated by terahertz conductivity. We provide a theoretical description of the dynamics after excitation, and justify the observed
slow relaxation by considering randomization of the order-parameter phase as the rate-limiting process that determines the decay of the light-induced superconductor.

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In situ decoration of laser-scribed graphene with TiO2 nanoparticles for scalable high-performance micro-supercapacitors

Graphene-based miniaturized supercapacitors, obtained via laser conversion of suitable precursors, have been attracting recent attention for the production of energy storage small-scale devices. In this work, a one-pot synthesis of TiO2 nanoparticles embedded in porous graphene-based electrodes has been obtained with the LightScribe® technology, by converting the precursor materials through the absorption of a DVD burner infrared laser light. Enhanced electrochemical performance of devices has been achieved thanks to the combination of faradic surface reactions, arising from metal oxide nanoparticles, with the conventional electrochemical double layer capacitance, arising from porous graphene. Micro-supercapacitors, consisting of TiO2-graphene electrodes, have been tested by investigating two hydrogel polymer electrolytes, based on polyvinyl alcohol/H3PO4 and polyvinyl alcohol/H2SO4, respectively. Specific areal capacitance up to 9.9 mF/cm2 are obtained in TiO2-graphene devices, corresponding to a volumetric capacitance of 13 F/cm3 and doubling the pristine graphene-based device results. The micro-supercapacitors achieved specific areal energy and specific areal power of 0.22 μWh/cm2 and 39 μW/cm2, along with a cyclability greater than 3000 cycles. These high-performance results suggest laser-scribed TiO2-graphene nanostructures as remarkable candidates in micro-supercapacitors for environment-friendly, large-scale and low-cost applications.

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Enhancing the performance of carbon electrodes in supercapacitors through medium-temperature fluoroalkylation

Medium-temperature fuoroalkylation of microporous activated carbons (ACs) with 1,1,1,2-tetrafuoroethane is presented. Supercapacitor (SC) electrodes based on the fuoroalkylated ACs showed enhanced specifc capacitance and high specific energy in electrolytes, either aqueous potassium hydroxide solution or tetraethylammonium tetrafuoroborate-acetonitrile solution. We found the largest increase in the specific capacitance, up to 89 F g–1, and in the specifc energy, up to 7.5 Wh kg–1, at the voltage of 1.5 V. The specific capacitance of the SC electrode based on the sample prepared at 350 °C increases
by a factor of ~2–3× for certain scan rates in the organic electrolyte. The fuoroalkylated ACs have good electrochemical stability in the tested model systems. We associate the registered enhanced SC parameters with an increase in the total fuorine content and high specifc surface areas of the carbon electrode materials. The surface “isolated fuorine” formed during fuoroalkylation at 300–400 °C ensures the production of improved electrode materials for SC applications. Fluoroalkylation is a simple and cost-efective method of improving the specifc capacitance of carbon-based SC electrodes.

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Nickel addition to optimize the hydrogen storage performance of lithium intercalated fullerides

The addition of transition metals to alkali intercalated fullerides proved to enhance their already good hydrogen absorption properties. Herein we present a study based on two different synthetic strategies, allowing the addition of nickel as aggregates with different size to the lithium fulleride Li6C60: the former is based on the metathesis of nickel chloride, while the latter on the thermal decomposition of nickel carbonyl clusters. The hydrogen-storage properties of the obtained materials have been investigated with manometric and calorimetric measurements, which indicated a clear enhancement of the final absorption value and kinetics with respect to pristine Li6C60, as a consequence of nickel surface catalytic activity towards hydrogen molecules dissociation. We found up to 10 % increase of the total H2 weight % absorbed (5.5 wt% H2) in presence of Ni aggregates. Furthermore, the control of the transition metal particles size distribution allowed reducing the hydrogen desorption enthalpy of the systems.

Reproduced with permission. Copyright 2020, Elsevier

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Neutron scattering study of nickel decorated thermally exfoliated graphite oxide

Surface decoration of graphene-based nanostructures with metals has been predicted to be an efficient way towards the development of resistant catalysts and novel materials for energy applications, such as hydrogen production and storage. We report on an extensive neutron scattering study of a defective graphene-based material decorated with nickel nanoparticles, obtained via the chemical decoration of thermally exfoliated graphite oxide. The combination of neutron diffraction and inelastic neutron scattering measurements has been used to characterize the low-dimensional carbon backbone and the presence of the nickel nanoparticles, organized at the nanometer scale on the graphene plane. The structural features of this system, along with the nickel capability of dissociating the hydrogen molecule upon hydrogen treatment, are herein discussed.

Reproduced with permission. Copyright 2020, Elsevier

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