Functional Lignocellulosic Materials

Group-leader: Etienne Cabane

Nature is able to build structures with a limited palette of materials, but with unparalleled architectural complexity. In comparison, manmade synthetic materials are extremely diverse in nature but they are structurally more basic. These materials would have remarkably improved properties if sophisticated structures from biological materials could be reproduced in a controlled manner. Therefore, the development of new techniques to implement nano- and microscopic features into large scale structures is a major challenge facing materials scientists.

Wood is a wonderful example of a highly sophisticated hierarchical structure which can be exploited to develop a vast variety of functional materials. As opposed to synthetic materials produced by a bottom-up approach, this hierarchical structure already provides the intrinsic solution to up-scaling problems. However, a top-down approach to material design  comes with many challenges, and wood is currently limited in its applications because there is a lack of post-functionalization techniques to exploit and advance these advantageous features. 

As shown in the figure below, the aim of the functional lignocellulosic materials group is to develop and utilize simple  and versatile protocols for the functionalization of wood resulting in wood-based materials with novel property profiles (biosynthetic hybrids).

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Figure adapted from Jean-Marie Lehn (J.-M. Lehn, from matter to life: chemistry?!), Reson, 1996, 1, 39-53.
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Schematic view showing the concept of a spruce wood cross-section used for oil-water separation.
example of such functionalization is to make use the natural porous wood structure and transfer it to a selective membrane or filter due to specific cell modification.