Nature communications

Rapid electron transfer by the carbon matrix in natural pyrogenic carbon.

PMID 28361882


Surface functional groups constitute major electroactive components in pyrogenic carbon. However, the electrochemical properties of pyrogenic carbon matrices and the kinetic preference of functional groups or carbon matrices for electron transfer remain unknown. Here we show that environmentally relevant pyrogenic carbon with average H/C and O/C ratios of less than 0.35 and 0.09 can directly transfer electrons more than three times faster than the charging and discharging cycles of surface functional groups and have a 1.5 V potential range for biogeochemical reactions that invoke electron transfer processes. Surface functional groups contribute to the overall electron flux of pyrogenic carbon to a lesser extent with greater pyrolysis temperature due to lower charging and discharging capacities, although the charging and discharging kinetics remain unchanged. This study could spur the development of a new generation of biogeochemical electron flux models that focus on the bacteria-carbon-mineral conductive network.