Molecular models showing different types of carbon nanomaterials categorized by their dimensionality. It includes fullerenes, nanotubes, nanoribbons, graphene, nanotube networks, etc. that could be used as building blocks (units) to synthesize real 3D carbon materials with controlled structures and properties. Image from Terrones et al. [26].
Molecular models showing different types of carbon nanomaterials categorized by their dimensionality. It includes fullerenes, nanotubes, nanoribbons, graphene, nanotube networks, etc. that could be used as building blocks (units) to synthesize real 3D carbon materials with controlled structures and properties. Image from Terrones et al. [26].

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By Jin Zhang, Mauricio Terrones, Chong Rae Park, Rahul Mukherjee, Marc Monthioux, Nikhil Koratkar, Yern Seung Kim, Robert Hurt, Elzbieta Frackowiak, Toshiaki Enoki, Yuan Chen, Yongsheng Chen, Alberto Bianco.

This year we enjoyed the 30th anniversary of the discovery of C60: Buckminsterfullerene. This discovery in 1985 began a unique period in carbon science that saw the rise of carbon nanotube research, the isolation and characterization of graphene, and the exponential growth of international nanotechnology research that has arguably been the largest movement within the physical sciences over the last several decades. Carbon materials have led this general science movement, serving as models of structural perfection that have inspired synthesis of other materials with similar structures and symmetries.

We are fortunate in Carbon to be at the center of a very exciting field. Recent research on carbon materials has led to two Nobel Prizes (for fullerenes and graphene), and two Kavli Prizes in Nanoscience (to M. Dresselhaus and S. Iijima for work on carbon nanotubes). Carbon nanomaterials research has transformed the journal in many ways, and is responsible for much of its recent growth and success. As we approach 2016, however, nanoscience is maturing as a field and the graphene discovery is ten years old. Having discovered the archetypical low-dimensional carbon forms - 0D fullerenes, 1D nanotubes, and 2D graphene, what will be the next “big thing” in carbon? One is reminded of Francis Fukuyama's 1989 essay, The End of History, which explored whether the end of the Cold War meant the end of political struggles over the final preferred form of government. Have we reached a similar point in 2016 that would cause us to declare the “End of Carbon Science”?

Our editorial team firmly believes the answer is “no” and that many exciting challenges remain. There are various new allotropes to be synthesized, and there are major challenges in combining our basic low-dimensional forms into more complex 3D architectures. Much work is needed to develop and optimize applications of nanotubes and graphene, and concerns about the global environment are causing a resurgence of interest in carbon fibres for lightweight transportation technologies and porous carbons for energy storage and environmental protection.

We decided to try a new editorial form by combining our ideas and perspectives, each of us drawing from our individual subfields, to produce this group editorial. We leave the readers to judge the usefulness of the outcome, which is represented by the individual sections below. First, Mauricio Terrones and Yongsheng Chen begin with their thoughts on “Covalently bonded nanocarbon-based materials”. Toshiaki Enoki follows with a section entitled “From aromatic molecules to infinite graphene - bridging chemistry and physics”. Yuan Chen, the newest Carbon editor, writes about “High-purity single-walled carbon nanotubes: growth, sorting, and applications”. Alberto Bianco and Robert Hurt provide their perspectives on the “Biological behavior and safety of carbon nanomaterials – ongoing research needs” and Nikhil Koratkar with guest Rahul Mukherjee discuss “The importance of volumetric performance parameters in energy storage systems”. Also in the important area of energy applications, our new editor Elzbieta Frackowiak discusses the “Role of carbon textural properties in energy storage systems”. Marc Monthioux and Chong Rae Park describe the history and current research directions in “Carbon fibres”, and Jin Zhang writes about “Graphynes as new carbon allotropes”. Finally, Chong Rae Park and guest Yern Seung Kim write about “Nanocomposites”, and we end with a section by Robert Hurt on the various aspects of the connection between “Carbon materials and the global environment”. We hope our readers will find these personal opinions and subjective outlooks valuable.

This article originally appeared in Carbon 982016, Pages 708-732

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