A carbon based foam article is made by heating the surface of a carbon foam block to a temperature above its graphitizing temperature, which is the temperature sufficient to graphitize the carbon foam. In one embodiment, the surface is heated with infrared pulses until heat is transferred from the surface into the core of the foam article such that the graphitizing temperature penetrates into the core to a desired depth below the surface. The graphitizing temperature is maintained for a time sufficient to substantially entirely graphitize the portion of the foam article from the surface to the desired depth below the surface. Thus, the foam article is an integral monolithic material that has a desired conductivity gradient with a relatively high thermal conductivity in the portion of the core that was graphitized and a relatively low thermal conductivity in the remaining portion of the foam article.
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to UT-Battelle, LLC. The government has certain rights in the invention.