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Sustainable production of value-added carbon nanomaterials from biomass pyrolysis


The production of renewable energy and chemicals from biomass can be performed sustainably using pyrolysis, but the production costs associated with biomass pyrolysis hinder its wider application. The use of renewable precursors and waste heat to fabricate high-quality functional carbon nanomaterials can considerably improve the sustainability and economic viability of this process. Here, we propose a method to maximize the economic benefits and the sustainability of biomass pyrolysis by utilizing waste pyrolysis gases and waste heat to prepare high-quality three-dimensional graphene foams (3DGFs). The resulting 3DGFs exhibit excellent performance in environmental and energy-storage applications. On the basis of a life-cycle assessment, the overall life-cycle impacts of the present synthetic route on human health, ecosystems and resources are less than those of the conventional chemical vapour deposition (CVD) process. Overall, incorporating the pyrolytic route for fabricating functional carbonaceous materials into the biomass pyrolysis process improves the sustainability and economic viability of the process and can support wider commercial application of biomass pyrolysis.

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Fig. 1: Preparation of carbon nanomaterials and bio-oil from biomass pyrolysis.
Fig. 2: SEM, TEM and HRTEM imaging of the 3DGFs.
Fig. 3: Elemental and XPS analysis of the 3DGFs.
Fig. 4: Electronic properties of the 3DGF-C.
Fig. 5: Economic and sustainability analyses.

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Data availability

Global data of the wheat-residues distribution shown in Fig. 5a are available at FAO ( Any other data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information or from the corresponding author on request.


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This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 21677138, 21876166 and 51821006) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (WK2060190063).

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Authors and Affiliations



H.J. developed the concept, designed the experiment, analysed the data and composed the manuscript. S.Z. and S.-F.J. performed the experiments and wrote the Article. H.-Q.Y. coordinated the project, analysed the data and composed the manuscript. B.-C.H. performed the life-cycle assessment calculations. X.-C.S. conducted the preparation experiment of CNTs. All of the authors provided discussion of the data and ideas and gave input on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hong Jiang or Han-Qing Yu.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods 1 and 2, Tables 1–4, Figs. 1–24, Discussion and refs. 1–18.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

Different organic liquids with methyl red were dropped into water and suspended on the surface of water. The 3DGFs were used to adsorb organic liquid.

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Zhang, S., Jiang, SF., Huang, BC. et al. Sustainable production of value-added carbon nanomaterials from biomass pyrolysis. Nat Sustain 3, 753–760 (2020).

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