Ultralight, scalable, and high-temperature–resilient ceramic nanofiber sponges

Ultralight TiO2 sponge standing on a setaria viridis

Ultralight, scalable, and high-temperature–resilient ceramic nanofiber sponges

Ultralight and resilient porous nanostructures have been fabricated in various material forms, including carbon, polymers, and metals. However, the development of ultralight and high-temperature resilient structures still remains extremely challenging. Ceramics exhibit good mechanical and chemical stability at high temperatures, but their brittleness and sensitivity to flaws significantly complicate the fabrication of resilient porous ceramic nanostructures. We report the manufacturing of large-scale, lightweight, high-temperature resilient, three-dimensional sponges based on a variety of oxide ceramic (for example, TiO2, ZrO2, yttria-stabilized ZrO2, and BaTiO3) nanofibers through an efficient solution blow-spinning process. The ceramic sponges consist of numerous tangled ceramic nanofibers, with densities varying from 8 to 40 mg/cm3. In situ uniaxial compression in a scanning electron microscope showed that the TiO2 nanofiber sponge exhibits high energy absorption (for example, dissipation of up to 29.6 mJ/cm3 in energy density at 50% strain) and recovers rapidly after compression in excess of 20% strain at both room temperature and 400°C. The sponge exhibits excellent resilience with residual strains of only ~1% at 800°C after 10 cycles of 10% compression strain and maintains good recoverability after compression at ~1300°C. We show that ceramic nanofiber sponges can serve multiple functions, such as elasticity-dependent electrical resistance, photocatalytic activity, and thermal insulation.

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