Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Large numbers of leaves fall on the earth each autumn. The current treatments of dead leaves mainly involve completely destroying the biocomponents, which causes considerable energy consumption and environmental issues. It remains a challenge to convert waste leaves into useful materials without breaking down their biocomponents. Here, we turn red maple dead leaves into an active three-component multifunctional material by exploiting the role of whewellite biomineral for binding lignin and cellulose. Owing to its intense optical absorption spanning the full solar spectrum and the heterogeneous architecture for effective charge separation, films of this material show high performance in solar water evaporation, photocatalytic hydrogen production, and photocatalytic degradation of antibiotics. Furthermore, it also acts as a bioplastic with high mechanical strength, high-temperature tolerance, and biodegradable features. These findings pave the way for the efficient utilization of waste biomass and innovations of advanced materials.
Turning dead leaves into an active multifunctional material as evaporator, photocatalyst, and bioplastic.
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