College of Engineering


Materials Engineering Department

Degree Name

BS in Materials Engineering




Linda Vanasupa


Carbon foam is a high niche material that consists of a highly porous, three-dimensional cellular network that is characterized by extremely high strength-to-weight ratios and low thermal conductivity. Due to these properties, carbon foams excel in structural and thermal applications, especially in the aerospace industry. Typically, carbon foams are formed through a heating process called pyrolysis of polymer precursors with high carbon content. This process is done at high temperatures in an oxygen free environment. These precursors are expensive to make and use toxic chemicals to produce, therefore, there is a push to find an environmentally friendly and cost-effective method to produce carbon foams. This research has looked into the development of a method for making carbon foams out of bread and cake precursors. This material costs about one dollar a batch to produce and can be made with common, non-toxic ingredients. Cakes already have a foam like structure and pyrolizing these cakes produces a near pure carbon structure. By varying the cake recipe used for the precursor, the structural and thermal properties of the material can be tuned to match the design criteria. The commercial foam minimum is 2.0MPa. The bread carbon foam reached a compressive strength of 1.9MPa while the cake carbon foam reached a compressive strength of 3.0 MPa. On average, the carbon foams typically lose 75.3% of their volume, 82.2% of their mass and 36.8% of their density during the pyrolysis process. These carbon foams from bread and cake are hydrophobic, but lipophilic and have the ability to absorb 90% of their volume in oil making them a potential solution to oil spills and oil clean up.

Available for download on Monday, June 10, 2019