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Fibration of powdery materials


Non-destructive processing of powders into macroscopic materials with a wealth of structural and functional possibilities has immeasurable scientific significance and application value, yet remains a challenge using conventional processing techniques. Here we developed a universal fibration method, using two-dimensional cellulose as a mediator, to process diverse powdered materials into micro-/nanofibres, which provides structural support to the particles and preserves their own specialties and architectures. It is found that the self-shrinking force drives the two-dimensional cellulose and supported particles to pucker and roll into fibres, a gentle process that prevents agglomeration and structural damage of the powder particles. We demonstrate over 120 fibre samples involving various powder guests, including elements, compounds, organics and hybrids in different morphologies, densities and particle sizes. Customized fibres with an adjustable diameter and guest content can be easily constructed into high-performance macromaterials with various geometries, creating a library of building blocks for different fields of applications. Our fibration strategy provides a universal, powerful and non-destructive pathway bridging primary particles and macroapplications.

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Fig. 1: Overview of the schematic and morphologies of GAFs.
Fig. 2: Structural characterization of GAFs.
Fig. 3: Controllable GAFs.
Fig. 4: Mechanical properties of GAFs and integrated multifunctional design.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.


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This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. U22A20140 to H.L., 21825103 to T.Z., 52072138 to H.L. and 32371508 to Q.S.) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (no. 2021YFB3800300 to H.L., 2018YFE0206900 to H.L. and 2023YFD2201403 to Q.S.).

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Authors and Affiliations



H.L., Q.S., T.Z. and H.W. conceived the idea and supervised all the aspects of the research. G.T. supported the project as an expert. H.W., C.Z. and C.W. fabricated the samples and carried out the measurements. J.F., Y.Y., Y.L. and Z.D. performed the materials characterizations. H.W. and C.Z. evaluated the data and interpreted the results. H.W. and C.Z. wrote the paper, and all authors discussed the results and worked on the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Qingfeng Sun, Tianyou Zhai or Huiqiao Li.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Materials thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Appearance and basic properties of powder materials.

Optical photograph of powder materials with the true densities (from 1.04 g cm-3 for polystyrene nanospheres to 19.3 g cm-3 for W), tap densities (from 0.1 g cm-3 for Si to 4.5 g cm-3 for Ta) and mean sizes.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Diameters and lengths of GAFs.

a, Diameter distribution of representative GAFs. b, Combined SEM image of ZnO nanosheet GAF spliced from high-resolution SEM images taken along the fibre direction. The magnified SEM images and elemental mappings confirm that the distribution of ZnO in the fibre is uniform.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Schematic mechanism of the fibration process for GAF.

Illustration of the conversion mechanism from powder to GAF based on the deformation process of a 2D-cellulose isomer during water removal. TEM image on the left is 2D-cellulose.

Extended Data Fig. 4 The intermediate state of target GAF during the fibration process.

a, Schematics of in-situ cyro-SEM measurements for this fibration process. b, Cyro-SEM image of the frozen ZnO@2D-cellulose suspension. Arrows indicate that sheet-like ZnO@2D-cellulose intermediates started to shrink and roll up at this solid-gas interface. Dashed lines (b) mark the bifurcated structure in sheet-like guest/cellulose composite intermediates. c-f, Bifurcation characteristic of GAFs containing SiC/CNT (c), diamond (d), ZrC (e), and ten mixed guests (f).

Extended Data Fig. 5 Characterization of a single GAF fibre.

TEM images and schematic diagram of GAF single fibre structure, including different low-content of Nb, Ti, BaTiO3, and W guest. The TEM images show that the 2D-cellulose forms a multi-layer roll-up structure to wrap guest particles within the fibre.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Simulation modeling of the deformation process of 2D-cellulose with guest particles.

Simulation modeling of the deformation process of 2D-cellulose isomer with two ZnO nanoparticles during water removal, when only one side shrunken in the X direction on behalf of the edge part of the nanosheet (OS-Model) (a-d) and two side shrunken in the X direction on behalf of the inside part of nanosheet (TS-Model) (e-h).

Extended Data Fig. 7 The interior structure of a single GAFs.

a, Dual-beam focused ion beam (FIB) analysis of SiO2 (200 nm) GAFs with (b) longitudinal and (c) cross-section SEM images. It shows a uniform distribution of the guest particles which intensely adhere to the 2D-cellulose ultrathin nanosheets within a single GAF. Sheet-like cellulose within GAFs is highlighted by the orange arrows, and their paths formed are also highlighted by the orange lines and circles. Orange lines and arrows highlight the lamellar 2D-cellulose structures in the fibre, which had a very thin cross-section with a section thickness of less than 10 nm. Along the long axis of the fibre in the L-direction, the 2D-cellulose in the profile presents an almost parallel linear structure. In addition, the 2D-cellulose appears as wriggled curves in the cross-sectional SEM images of the fibre in the R-plane, which corresponded to the folding and puckering of the nanosheet.

Extended Data Fig. 8 Diverse macro-architectures built by GAFs.

a-c, Spinnability of GAFs. Optical micrographs of GAFs (a) and GAF-aligned wires (b, c) using Dy2O3 as guest particles. After spinning, the fluffy GAF was compressed into a large fibre with a diameter of several hundred microns. d-f, GAF-based membranes. SEM images of GAF using carbon as guest (d), optical photograph (e), and cross-section SEM image (f) of GAF membranes with different thickness. These SEM images show that the fibres are stable even after ultrasonic and filtration treatments. g, GAF-based blocks. Optical photograph of different shapes of GAFs blocks including cylindrical quinary-GAF block, discoid diamond-GAF block, spherical carbon-GAF, and cuboid-shaped ZrO2/CNT-GAF.

Extended Data Fig. 9 Radar plots comparing the performance of the GAFs, IFs, and OIFs.

Radar plots comparing the properties and synthesis method of the GAFs, inorganic fibres (IFs), and organic-inorganic hybrid fibres (OIFs). The performance for each characteristic is the maximum reported in the literature for their fields, including a comparison of the synthesis methods.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–45, Tables 1–8 and discussion.

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Wang, H., Zeng, C., Wang, C. et al. Fibration of powdery materials. Nat. Mater. 23, 596–603 (2024).

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