Deformation of Microporous Carbons during N2, Ar, and CO2 Adsorption: Insight from the Density Functional Theory

Using the nonlocal density functional theory, we investigate adsorption of N2 (77 K), Ar (77 K), and CO2 (273 K) and respective adsorption-induced deformation of microporous carbons. We show that the smallest micropores comparable in size and even smaller than the nominal molecular diameter of the adsorbate contribute significantly to the development of the adsorption stress. While pores of approximately the nominal adsorbate diameter exhibit no adsorption stress regardless of their filling level, the smaller pores cause expansive adsorption stresses up to almost 4 GPa. Accounting for this effect, we determined the pore-size distribution of a synthetic microporous carbon by simultaneously fitting its experimental CO2 adsorption isotherm (273 K) and corresponding adsorption-induced strain measured by in situ dilatometry. Based on the pore-size distribution and the elastic modulus fitted from CO2 data, we predicted the sample’s strain isotherms during N2 and Ar adsorption (77 K), which were found to be in reasonable agreement with respective experimental data. The comparison of calculations and experimental results suggests that adsorption-induced deformation caused by micropores is not limited to the low relative pressures typically associated with the micropore filling, but is effective over the whole relative pressure range up to saturation pressure.