This ubiqutuos carbon... was an interesting topic presented by Dr. Cristian Contescu, Senior Research Staff, Materials Science and Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, at a recent University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research Seminar held on March 2, 2016.

After Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, and after the Silicon Age of the informational revolution, the technologies of 21st century are marked by the ubiqutuous presence of various forms of carbon allotropes. For long time, diamond and graphite were the only known carbon allotropes, but that has changed with the serendipous discovery of fullerences, carbon nanotubes, and graphene. Every ten or fifteen years scientists unveil new forms of carbons with new and perplexing properties, while computations suggest that the carbon’s family still has members unknown to us today. At a dramatically accelerated pace, new carbon allotrope forms find their place at the leading edge of scientific and technological innovations. At the same time traditional forms of carbon are being used in new and exciting applications that make our life safer, healthier, and more enjoyable. The 21st century may soon be recognized as the Age of Carbon forms.

This educational talk emphasized the role that carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the Galaxy and the basis of life on Earth, was the engine of most important technological developments throughout the history of civilization. The talk will emphasize carbon’s strong ability, as an element, to generate a variety of allotropic forms and to enter in a multitude of combinations with itself and with many other chemical elements. These properties have placed carbon at the core of numerous inventions that define out civilization, while emerging new technologies open a rich path for value-added products in today’s market. The potential of new (and traditional) carbon allotropes for development of new applications in nanotechnologies and nanocomposites, energy storage and conversion, gas separation, storage and sequestration, health management and drug delivery, defense and national security, aeronautics and astronautics, basic sciences and life sciences is still not fully explored and demands more basic and applied research. Today’s carbon science and technology offers a broad range of opportunities for the young generation of students, engineers and scientists.