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Highly Compressible, Anisotropic Aerogel with Aligned Cellulose Nanofibers

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journal contribution
posted on 19.12.2017, 16:47 by Jianwei Song, Chaoji Chen, Zhi Yang, Yudi Kuang, Tian Li, Yiju Li, Hao Huang, Iain Kierzewski, Boyang Liu, Shuaiming He, Tingting Gao, Sevket U. Yuruker, Amy Gong, Bao Yang, Liangbing Hu
Aerogels can be used in a broad range of applications such as bioscaffolds, energy storage devices, sensors, pollutant treatment, and thermal insulating materials due to their excellent properties including large surface area, low density, low thermal conductivity, and high porosity. Here we report a facile and effective top-down approach to fabricate an anisotropic wood aerogel directly from natural wood by a simple chemical treatment. The wood aerogel has a layered structure with anisotropic structural properties due to the destruction of cell walls by the removal of lignin and hemicellulose. The layered structure results in the anisotropic wood aerogel having good mechanical compressibility and fragility resistance, demonstrated by a high reversible compression of 60% and stress retention of ∼90% after 10 000 compression cycles. Moreover, the anisotropic structure of the wood aerogel with curved layers stacking layer-by-layer and aligned cellulose nanofibers inside each individual layer enables the wood aerogel to have an anisotropic thermal conductivity with an anisotropy factor of ∼4.3. An extremely low thermal conductivity of 0.028 W/m·K perpendicular to the cellulose alignment direction and a thermal conductivity of 0.12 W/m·K along the cellulose alignment direction can be achieved. The thermal conductivity is not only much lower than that of the natural wood material (by ∼3.6 times) but also lower than most of the commercial thermal insulation materials. The top-down approach is low-cost, scalable, simple, yet effective, representing a promising direction for the fabrication of high-quality aerogel materials.