Low-Cost and Facile Approach for Manufacturing 3-D Porous Nickel Foams and Thin-Graphite with Ultrahigh Surface Area and Multilevel Dendritic Porosity

Physical Sciences : Materials and Compounds

Available for licensing


  • Donglei Fan , Mechanical Engineering
  • Weigu Li , Mechanical Engineering

Background/unmet need

Three-dimensional porous architectures have become highly desirable structures. Offering large specific area, this type of architecture provides an essential feature for achieving high performances in various catalytic and energy devices.

Porous metallic foams are typically 3D microstructures of interconnected pores with ramified walls that usually exhibit porosities above 50% and a wide pore size distribution. These structures allow the facile diffusion of active chemical species through the material and thus provide an increase surface area when used as electrodes of electrochemical reactions. It is of significant importance for electrochemical-based energy storage and conversion devices, such as batteries, supercapacitors, and fuel cells. Furthermore, metallic foams offer excellent electrical and thermal conductivity and ductility/malleability.

Carbonaceous materials with various morphologies and chemistries, such as carbon nanotubes, bucky balls, graphene, and thin graphite, have emerged as key structures for energy storage and conversion devices and environmental protection. Thin graphite is advantageous as an electrode support owing to the material’s high electric conductivity, excellent mechanical durability, and ultra-low mass density (as low as 0.1 mg/cm2). The assembly of graphene sheets, however, is completely uncontrollable and can drastically reduce the available surface areas, introduce impurities and lower the device performance.

It remains a challenge to rationally and efficiently synthesize carbonaceous materials into 3-D porous nanosuperstructures, which boast both high surface areas and high-speed ionic transports for various energy and environmental-protection devices. Using commercially available 3-D nickel foams as catalysts, our lab was able to synthesize 3-D thin graphite. Although this approach resolved the assembling problem of carbonaceous materials as electrodes for energy devices, there is still a large volume of empty spaces/voids among graphite struts. To our knowledge, no work has achieved 3-D carbonaceous nanostructures with hierarchical dendrites, multilevel porosity, and ultrahigh surface areas in an efficient and low-cost manner.

Invention Description

In this invention, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin report an original facile and low-cost approach for the synthesis of three-dimensional (3-D) nickel foams with hierarchical dendritic porosity that offer much higher surface areas compared to commercially available Ni foams. By using the 3-D nickel foams with hierarchical dendritic porosity as catalysts, the researchers have also successfully synthesized 3-D multiple porous thin-graphite with replicated morphology. Both of these materials offer much enhanced surface areas, compared to commercially available entities, which have demonstrated essential applications, such as electrode supports, in batteries and supercapacitors. 


  • The manufacturing method is efficient, controllable, low cost, and capable of being integrated into conventional facilities.
  • The material offers higher surface area and therefore higher conductivity.


  • 3-D architecture
  • Multilevel porosity
  • Freestanding
  • Flexible

Market potential/applications

Automobile industry, cell phone makers, and environmental protection 

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 PCT patent application filed