Electrical switching of high-performance bioinspired nanocellulose nanocomposites

Read the full article here: Nat Commun 12, 1312 (2021)

by D. Jiao, F. Lossada, J. Guo, O. Skarsetz, D. Hoenders, J. Liu and A. Walther

Nature fascinates with living organisms showing mechanically adaptive behavior. In contrast to gels or elastomers, it is profoundly challenging to switch mechanical properties in stiff bioinspired nanocomposites as they contain high fractions of immobile reinforcements. Here, we introduce facile electrical switching to the field of bioinspired nanocomposites, and show how the mechanical properties adapt to low direct current (DC). This is realized for renewable cellulose nanofibrils/polymer nanopapers with tailor-made interactions by deposition of thin single-walled carbon nanotube electrode layers for Joule heating. Application of DC at specific voltages translates into significant electrothermal softening via dynamization and breakage of the thermo-reversible supramolecular bonds. The altered mechanical properties are reversibly switchable in power on/power off cycles. Furthermore, we showcase electricity-adaptive patterns and reconfiguration of deformation patterns using electrode patterning techniques. The simple and generic approach opens avenues for bioinspired nanocomposites for facile application in adaptive damping and structural materials, and soft robotics.

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