Bioinspired Multiscale Micro-/Nanofiber Network Design Enabling Extremely Compressible, Fatigue-Resistant, and Rapidly Shape-Recoverable Cryogels

Luhe Qi, Sen Wang, Lu Chen, Le Yu, Xiaojia Guo, Mingxiang Chen, Wengen Ouyang*, Xiaowen Shi*, Chaoji Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Cryogels with extreme mechanical properties such as ultrahigh compressibility, fatigue resistance, and rapid recovery are attractive in biomedical, environmental remediation, and energy storage applications, which, however, are difficult to achieve in man-made materials. Here, inspired by the multiscale macro-/microfiber network structure of spider web, we construct an ultraelastic chitosan cryogel with interconnected hybrid micro-/nanofibers (CMNF cryogels) via freeze-induced physicochemical cross-linking. Chitosan chains are directionally assembled into high-aspect-ratio microfibers and nanofibers under shear-flow induction, which are further assembled into an interconnected three-dimensional (3D) network structure with staggered microfibers and nanofibers. In this multiscale network, nanofibers connecting the microfibers improve the stability, while microfibers improve the elasticity of the CMNF cryogels through long-range interaction. The synergy of the two-scale fibers endows the CMNF cryogel with extraordinary mechanical properties in comparison to those assembled with single-scale fibers, including its ultrahigh ultimate strain (97% strain with 50 cycles), excellent fatigue resistance (3200 compressing-releasing cycles at 60% compression strain), and rapid water-triggered shape recovery (recovering in ∼1 s). Moreover, the fibrous CMNF cryogel shows excellent functionalization capability via the rapid assembly of nanoscale building blocks for flexible electronics and environmental remediation. Our work thereby demonstrates the potential of this bioinspired strategy for designing gel materials with extreme mechanical properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6317-6329
Number of pages13
JournalACS Nano
Volume17
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 11 Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • bioinspired
  • biomass
  • chitosan
  • cryogel
  • fatigue-resistant

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