Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. John P. Selegue


Carbon nano-onions (CNOs) discovered by Ugarte in 1992 are multi-layered fullerenes that are spherical analogs of multi-walled carbon nanotubes with diameters varying from 6 nm to 30 nm. Among the various methods of synthesis, CNOs prepared by graphitization of nanodiamonds (N-CNOs) and underwater electric arc of graphite rods (A-CNOs) are the subject of our research. N-CNOs are considered as more reactive than A-CNOs due to their smaller size, high curvature and surface defects.

This dissertation focuses on structural analysis and surface functionalization of N- CNOs with diameters ranging from 6—10 nm. Synthetic approaches such as oleum- assisted oxidation, Freidel-Crafts acylation and Billups reductive alkylation were used to functionalize N-CNOs to improve their dispersion properties in aqueous and organic solvents. Functionalized N-CNOs were characterized using various techniques such as TGA, TG-MS, Raman spectroscopy and pH-titrimetry. We designed an experimental method to isolate polycyclic aromatic adsorbates formed on the surface of oleum oxidized N-CNOs (ON-CNOs) and characterized them.

A-CNOs, on the other hand are bigger than N-CNOs with diameters ranging from 20—40 nm. In this dissertation, we discuss the preparation of graphene structures by unzipping of A-CNOs using KMnO4 as oxidizing agent. These graphene structures were characterized using powder X-ray diffraction, TGA, BET nitrogen adsorption/desorption studies and compressed powder conductivity.

This dissertation also focuses on lithiation/delithiation studies of N-CNOs, A- CNOs and A-CNO-derived graphene structures to use them as negative electrode materials in lithium-ion batteries. The cycling performances of these materials at a charge/discharge rate of C/10 were discussed. The cycling performance of N-CNOs was tested at faster charge/discharge rate of C.