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“Robust–Soft” Anisotropic Nanofibrillated Cellulose Aerogels with Superior Mechanical, Flame-Retardant, and Thermal Insulating Properties

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posted on 03.06.2021, 21:45 by Mingyuan Yan, Yuelei Pan, Xudong Cheng, Zhongxin Zhang, Yurui Deng, Zhiyi Lun, Lunlun Gong, Mengyao Gao, Heping Zhang
Advanced thermal insulation materials with low thermal conductivity and robustness derived from regenerative resources are badly needed for building energy conservation. Among them, nanofibrillated cellulose aerogels have huge application potential in the field of thermal insulation materials, but it is still a challenge to prepare cellulose aerogels of excellent comprehensive properties in a simple way. Herein, we demonstrate a unidirectional freeze-drying strategy to develop a novel “robust–soft” anisotropic nanofibrillated cellulose aerogel (NFC-Si-T) by integrating nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) and Si–O–Si bonding networks under the catalytic dehydration of p-toluenesulfonic acid (TsOH). The anisotropic structure endows the NFC-Si-T with high flexibility that can be easily bent or even tied with a knot, and in addition, it possesses high Young’s modulus (1–3.66 MPa) that can resist the compression weight of 10,000 times of its own weight without deformation. Furthermore, the NFC-Si-T aerogels exhibit anisotropic thermal insulation performances with a low average thermal conductivity (0.028–0.049 W m–1 K–1). More importantly, the limited oxygen index of the NFC-Si-T reaches up to 42.6–51%, showing excellent flame-retardant performance. Therefore, the “robust–soft” anisotropic NFC-Si-T aerogels can be used as an advanced thermal insulation material for building thermal insulation applications.