Lignin nano- and microparticles as template for nanostructured materials: formation of hollow metal-phenolic capsules†
Hollow polymeric, submicrometer-scaled capsules show promise in applications ranging from water remediation to drug delivery, and the preferred method for their synthesis includes templating from sacrificial particles. Such particles are typically non-renewable and the process of selective dissolution used to produce the capsules often requires harsh and/or toxic solvents. Thus, there is a critical need to develop inexpensive, sustainable templates that can be dismantled under mild conditions. Lignins have recently been introduced as renewable precursors for the synthesis of solid particles and can favorably substitute solid particles based on petrochemical (such as latex) or mineral (such as silica) precursors. Conveniently, widely available by-product streams of biomass processing can be used for the supramolecular assembly required for lignin particle formation. Herein, we introduce two common lignin sources (kraft and alkali lignins) as renewable and easily degradable particulate templates for the preparation of hollow polymeric capsules. The polymeric nanocoating, or wall of the capsules, was synthesized from renewable tannins, which self-assemble around the lignin particle template in the presence of metal ions, thereby coordinating into metal-phenolic networks (MPNs). The lignin template particles were easily degraded with aqueous or organic solvents under ambient conditions. Thus, the nanocoating assembly and template disassembly processes can be considered to be fully “green”. Finally, the synthesized hollow capsules were successfully utilized for water clean-up through the degradation of an organic dye, exemplifying a cost-effective and facile route for using environmentally friendly nanomaterials for environmental remediation.