PROTEIN-BASED NANOFABRICS FOR MULTIFUNCTIONAL AIR FILTERING
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With the fast development of economics and population, air pollution is getting worse and becomes a great concern worldwide. The release of chemicals, particulates and biological materials into air can lead to various diseases or discomfort to humans and other living organisms, alongside other serious impacts on the environment. Therefore, improving indoor air quality using various air filters is in critical need because people stay inside buildings most time of the day. However, current air filters using traditional polymers can only remove particles from the polluted air and disposing the huge amount of used air filters can cause serious secondary environmental pollution. Therefore, development of multi-functional air filter materials with environmental friendliness is significant. For this purpose, we developed “green” protein-based multifunctional air-filtering materials. The outstanding performance of the green materials in removal of multiple species of pollutants, including particulate matter, toxic chemicals, and biological hazards, simultaneously, will greatly facilitate the development of the next-generation air-filtration systems. First and foremost, we developed high-performance protein-based nanofabric air-filter mats. It was found that the protein-nanofabrics possess high-efficiency multifunctional air-filtering properties for both particles and various species of chemical gases. Then, the high-performance natural protein-based nanofabrics were promoted both mechanically and functionally by a textured cellulose paper towel. It is interestingly discovered that the textured cellulose paper towel not only can act as a flexible mechanical support, but also a type of airflow regulator which can improve the pollutant-nanofilter interactions. Furthermore, the protein-based nanofabrics were crosslinked in order to enhance the environmental-stability of the filters. It was found that the crosslinked protein-nanofabrics can significantly improve the structure stability against different moisture levels and temperatures, while maintain the multifunctional filtration performance. Moreover, it was demonstrated that the crosslinked protein-nanomaterials also possess antibacterial properties against the selected gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. This provides a cost-effective solution for advanced “green” nanomaterials with excellent performance in both filtration functions and structure stability under varying environment. This work indicates that protein-based air-filters are promising “green” air-filtering materials for next-generation air-filtration systems.