Cartilage-inspired superelastic ultradurable graphene aerogels prepared by the selective gluing of intersheet joints†
In this study, we demonstrate a cartilage-inspired superelastic and ultradurable nanocomposite strategy for the selective inclusion of viscoelastic poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) into graphene sheet junctions to create effective stress-transfer pathways within three-dimensional (3D) graphene aerogels (GAs). Inspired by the joint architectures in the human body, where small amounts of soft cartilage connect stiff (or hard) but hollow (and thus lightweight) bones, the 3D internetworked GA@PDMS achieves synergistic toughening. The resulting GA@PDMS nanocomposites exhibit fully reversible structural deformations (99.8% recovery even at a 90% compressive strain) and high compressive mechanical strength (448.2 kPa at a compressive strain of 90%) at repeated compression cycles. Owing to the combination of excellent mechanical and electrical properties, the GA@PDMS nanocomposites are used as signal transducers for strain sensors, showing very short response and recovery times (in the millisecond range) with reliable sensitivity and extreme durability. Furthermore, the proposed system is applied to electronic scales with a large detectable weight of about 4600 times greater than its own weight. Such bio-inspired cartilage architecture opens the door to fabricate new 3D multifunctional and mechanically durable nanocomposites for emerging applications, which include sensors, actuators, and flexible devices.