Advanced Materials, 2018, vol 30, 39, pp. 1801934
Biological tissues generally exhibit excellent anisotropic mechanical properties owing to their well-developed microstructures. Inspired by the aligned structure in muscles, a highly anisotropic, strong, and conductive wood hydrogel is developed by fully utilizing the high–tensile strength of natural wood, and the flexibility and high-water content of hydrogels. The wood hydrogel exhibits a high–tensile strength of 36 MPa along the longitudinal direction due to the strong bonding and cross-linking between the aligned cellulose nanofibers (CNFs) in wood and the polyacrylamide (PAM) polymer. The wood hydrogel is 5 times and 500 times stronger than the bacterial cellulose hydrogels (7.2 MPa) and the unmodified PAM hydrogel (0.072 MPa), respectively, representing one of the strongest hydrogels ever reported. Due to the negatively charged aligned CNF, the wood hydrogel is also an excellent nanofluidic conduit with an ionic conductivity of up to 5 × 10−4 S cm–1 at low concentrations for highly selective ion transport, akin to biological muscle tissue. The work offers a promising strategy to fabricate a wide variety of strong, anisotropic, flexible, and ionically conductive wood-based hydrogels for potential biomaterials and nanofluidic applications.