On the nanopaper trail

University of Arkansas researchers have created thin, flat, assemblies of nanowires that can be folded, bent and cut or shaped into three-dimensional devices like paper. This “nanopaper” has potential in applications such as armour, flame-retardant fabric, bacteria filters, oil cracking, controlled drug release, decomposition of pollutants and chemical warfare agents.  It is chemically inert, remains robust and can be heated up to 700oC.

 

‘Humans have used paper made from natural fibres for thousands of years,’ said Z. Ryan Tian, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. ‘With this technology, we are entering a new era.’

 

Tian and his team used a hydrothermal heating process to create long nanowires out of titanium dioxide and from there created free-standing membranes. The resulting material is white in colour and resembles regular paper.

 

The material can be cast into different three-dimensional shapes, with different functions. The researchers have created tubes, bowls and cups using this process. These three-dimensional hollow objects can be manipulated by hand and trimmed with scissors, the researchers report in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B.