Plastic foams are widely used in both industry and society for packaging, thermal insulation, and shock absorption owing to their light weight and aging and corrosion resistance. The potential harm of plastic pollution to human society and health has aroused the urgency of developing more sustainable alternative materials. cellulose as the most abundant natural biopolymer on Earth has been widely processed into foams or aerogels with light weight, high porosity, and excellent biodegradability. However, the fabrication process of these cellulose-based foams or aerogels generally involves freeze-drying and supercritical drying processes, which not only requires expensive facilities but also consumes intensive energy, making the final product less sustainable as it is claimed. Therefore, developing biodegradable foam materials from resource-abundant natural materials through an energy-efficient ambient drying approach is desired yet remains challenging.
The Chen group and He Liu's team from the Institute of Forestry and Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, rationally designed and used the coordination between cellulose molecules and bentonite to achieve the room temperature preparation of cellulose/bentonite foam, which has the advantages of high strength, high thermal stability, excellent degradability and recyclability, which is of great practical significance for achieving the goal of "carbon neutrality" in the packaging and thermal insulation industry. The results of the study were published online in the journal ACS Nano under the title "Scalable Production of Biodegradable, Recyclable, Sustainable Cellulose–Mineral Foams via Coordination Interaction Assisted Ambient Drying".