Extreme biomimetics: Preservation of molecular detail in centimeter-scale samples of biological meshes laid down by sponges

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Science Advances  04 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax2805
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax2805


Fabrication of biomimetic materials and scaffolds is usually a micro- or even nanoscale process; however, most testing and all manufacturing require larger-scale synthesis of nanoscale features. Here, we propose the utilization of naturally prefabricated three-dimensional (3D) spongin scaffolds that preserve molecular detail across centimeter-scale samples. The fine-scale structure of this collagenous resource is stable at temperatures of up to 1200°C and can produce up to 4 × 10–cm–large 3D microfibrous and nanoporous turbostratic graphite. Our findings highlight the fact that this turbostratic graphite is exceptional at preserving the nanostructural features typical for triple-helix collagen. The resulting carbon sponge resembles the shape and unique microarchitecture of the original spongin scaffold. Copper electroplating of the obtained composite leads to a hybrid material with excellent catalytic performance with respect to the reduction of p-nitrophenol in both freshwater and marine environments.

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