Abstract: Multifunctional, light-weight, responsive materials show promise in a range of applications including soft robotics, therapeutic delivery, advanced diagnostics and charge storage. This paper presents a novel, scalable, efficient and sustainable approach for the preparation of cellulose nanofibril-based aerogels via a facile ice-templating, solvent exchange and air-drying procedure, which could replace existing inefficient drying processes. These ambient-dried aerogels (∼99% porosity) exhibit a high specific compressive modulus (26.8?±?6.1?kPa?m3 kg−1, approaching equivalence of carbon-nanotube-reinforced aerogels), wet stability and shape recovery (80–90%), favorable specific surface area (90?m2 g−1) and tunable densities (2–20?kg?m−3). The aerogels provide an ideal nanofibrillar substrate for in-situ growth of metal–organic frameworks (MOFs), via co-assembly of MOF precursors with proteins in aqueous solutions. The resulting hybrid aerogels show a nine-fold increase in surface area (810 m2g−1), with preserved wet stability and additional protein biofunctionality. The hybrid aerogels facilitate a pH-controlled release of immobilized proteins, following a concomitant disassembly of the surface grown MOFs, demonstrating their use in controlled delivery systems. The colorimetric protein binding assay of the biofunctionalized hybrid aerogel also demonstrates the potential of the material as a novel 3D bioassay platform, which could potentially be an alternative to plate-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Hierarchical build-up of bio-based nanofibrous materials with tunable metal–organic framework biofunctionality
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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2021.04.013