New Article: Transient and recyclable organic microwave resonator using nanocellulose for 5G and Internet of Things applications

A new article from Ning Yan’s lab has been published in Chemical Engineering Journal written by Nicolas R. Tanguy, Maryam Moradpour, Mandeep C. Jain, Ning Yan, and Mohammad H. Zarifi.

The article can be accessed for free until June 13, 2023 by clicking here.


The rapid development of electronics has caused the accumulation of electronic waste that is threatening the environment and human health. The deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT), enabled by 5G microwave communication technology, will involve an increasing number of electronic devices. Microwave communication devices consist of petroleum/ceramic-based substrates and metallic traces that are non-biodegradable. Here, we report a smart, flexible, and transient organic microwave resonator (TOMR) using cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) nanopaper as substrate and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS) as conducting trace. The device produced a resonant profile with the maximum transmission coefficient (S21) amplitude of −14.95 dB at a resonant frequency of 2.75 GHz under ambient conditions (20 °C, 30% relative humidity (RH)). The TOMR demonstrated sensing capabilities, wherein increasing the %RH modulated the device’s resonant amplitude (-29 mdB/%RH from 0% to 50% RH and −90 mdB/%RH from 50% to 90% RH) and resonant frequency (3600 kHz/%RH). Moreover, the PEDOT:PSS trace could be reclaimed, recycled, and redeposited on a CNF nanopaper, which enabled the fabrication of a TOMR that displayed a similar resonant profile. Hence, this study demonstrates the first transient organic microwave resonator embedded with sensing capabilities and introduces a framework to minimize the environmental impact of 5G microwave communication devices for the IoT.

New Article: Fully biodegradable, hydrophobic, enhanced barrier starch bio-composites with sandwich structure by simulating wood

A new article from Ning Yan’s lab has been published in Industrial Crops and Products written by Chuanwei Zhang, Pengfei Zhang, Yanhui Li, S. Nair Sandeep, Jianyong Li, Maocheng Ji, Sixian Peng, Ning Yan, and Fangyi Li.

You can find the article here.


Through a single-sided cavity free-form foaming process, composites with open cell structures similar to wood cells were obtained by using corn starch, pulp fiber, and sisal fibers, which was used as the middle layer of the sandwiched composites. Afterwards, more hydrophobic lignin-containing nanocellulose fibrils from pine bark were coated on the surfaces of the open cell composites by high-pressure gun spraying, simulating the bark of wood to impart barrier property to the final product. The water barrier, mechanical property, apparent density, heat insulation, and biodegradability of the sandwich structured bio-composites were characterized. Experimental results indicated that the water contact angle on the surface of the bio-composite was as high as 92°. The apparent density of the bio-composite was very low, at 0.107 g/cm3. The tensile strength of the bio-composites reached 5.3 MPa. After conducting biodegradability tests in soil for 60 days, the bio-composites lost 87 % of its mass.

New Article: Non-cytotoxic lanthanum and nitrogen co-doped lignin-based carbon dots for selective detection of ions in biological imaging

A new article out of a collaboration between Dr. Ning Yan and Dr. Jing Chen’s labs has been published in the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering written by Xiaojun Zhang, Jialong Wu, Manxiang Wu, Lianfu Wang, Dayu Yu, Ning Yan, Huiming Wu, Jin Zhu, and Jing Chen.

You can find the article here


Owing to their versatility, fluorescent carbon quantum dots (CQDs) have attracted significant attention for applications in sensors, bioimaging, microfluidics, photodynamic therapy, drug delivery, light-emitting diode, etc. Herein, nitrogen and lanthanum co-doped multifunctional lignin-based carbon quantum dots ((N, La)-CQDs) were prepared from enzymatic hydrolysis lignin using a simple one-step hydrothermal method. The diameter of the CQDs obtained was about 2.2 nm with a good water solubility at the excitation wavelength of around 365 nm and emission wavelength of around 465 nm. This is the first discovery of (N, La)-CQDs to detect Sn2+. (N, La)-CQDs were successfully used to detect Fe3+, Sn2+, and ClO ions in the range of 0–100 μM with the detection limits of 0.99 μM, 1.1 μM and 1.1 μM sequentially, and the linear fit R2 of 0.9997, 0.9943 and 0.9941 respectively. Non-cytotoxic (N, La)-CQDs can be used for labeling cells and detecting Sn2+ in zebrafish. These attractive features make these non-toxic, environmentally friendly CQDs material highly promising for applications in a wide range of areas, such as biomedicine, biosensing, disease diagnosis, and environmental monitoring.

New Article: Low-temperature torrefaction assisted with solid-state KOH/urea pretreatment for accelerated methane production in wheat straw anaerobic digestion

A new article out of a collaboration between Dr. Ning Yan and Dr. Heyu Chen’s labs has been published in Bioresource Technology Journal written by Zhijiang Shao, Pitchaimari Gnanasekar, Nicole Tratnik, Nicolas R. Tanguy, Xiaohui Guo, Mingqiang Zhu, Ling Qiu, Ning Yan, and Heyu Chen.

You can find the article here.


Low-temperature torrefaction assisted with solid-state KOH/urea applied onto wheat straw was proposed to break down the lignocellulosic material to enhance biomethane production in anaerobic digestion (AD). The optimization of key parameters applying the Box-Behnken design and response surface method showed that an addition of 0.1 g/gstraw KOH/urea at 180 ℃ while torrefying for 30 min was the optimal condition for producing biomethane. Results indicate that co-applying KOH and urea in torrefaction synergistically enhanced the biodegradability of straw by effectively removing lignin and largely retaining cellulose, giving rise to a 41 % increase in the cumulative methane production compared to untreated straw (213 mL/g-volatile solids (VSraw)) from batch AD. Additionally, the nitrogen- and potassium-rich digestates helped to improve soil fertility, thus achieving a zero-waste discharge. This study demonstrated the feasibility of using solid-state KOH/urea assisted low-temperature torrefaction as an effective pretreatment method to promote methane production during AD.

New Article: Multifunctional superhydrophilic/underwater superoleophobic lignin-based polyurethane foam for highly efficient oil-water separation and water purification

A new article out of a collaboration between Dr. Ning Yan and Dr. Jing Chen’s labs has been published in Separation and Purification Technology Journal written by Jing Chen, Jialong Wu, Yinyan Zhong, Xiaozhen Ma, Wanrong Lv, Honglong Zhao, Jin Zhu, and Ning Yan.

You can find the article here.


Superwettability can affect the performance of oil separation from water during the treatment of oily wastewater. Among various types of materials developed for cleaning oil pollution, foam is a popular choice due to its attractive lightweight properties and adjustable porosities. Foams with superwetting surfaces (superhydrophilic/superoleophobic underwater) are ideal for oil/water separations. In this study, lignin-based polyurethane foams (LPUFs) were synthesized first, and then polydopamine particles were deposited on the surface of the foam by in situ polymerization under weak alkaline conditions to increase its surface roughness. Afterwards, phytic acid was used to modify the foam to achieve surface superhydrophilicity and underwater superoleophobicity. Successful loading of polydopamine (PDA) particles and coating of phytic acid (PA) onto the foam was demonstrated by SEM, EDS, FTIR, XPS, and thermogravimetric analysis measurements. It was shown in the cyclic compression tests that LPUFs had good mechanical properties. Under 75 % compression strain, the maximum stress in the first cycle of LPUF/PDA/PA was 105.92 kPa. After 30 cyclic compression tests, the maximum stress of LPUF/PDA/PA under 75 % compression strain was 105.63 kPa, demonstrating a high mechanical stability. The contact angle of the foam modified by PDA and PA was 0° for water, 166.7° for chloroform, and 158.4° for hexane, which also demonstrated excellent underwater anti-oil adhesion performances. Oil-water separation tests by using PDA and PA modified lignin-based foam with mixtures of water and n-hexane, cyclohexane, toluene, and pump oil indicated a separation efficiency of over 99 % for the types of mixtures tested together with excellent repeatability. In addition, the PDA and PA modified lignin-based foams were able to adsorb 67.1 mg/g of methylene blue, 96.1 mg/g of rhodamine B, and 98.2 mg/g of copper sulfate. The lignin-based foam could completely degrade under weak alkaline conditions after usage. This study highlighted a novel strategy for synthesizing environmentally friendly high-performance adsorbents to efficiently treat polluted wastewater using lignin as a raw material.

New Article: Insights into the Interaction between Amylose-Rich Corn Starch and Maleic Anhydride in Imidazolium Chloride-Based Ionic Liquids

A new article from Ning Yan’s lab has been published in ACS Applied Polymer Materials written by Shrestha Roy Goswami, Sen Wang and Ning Yan.

The first 50 people to click here will have access to a free e-print of the final published article until January 2024.


Starch maleates with a high degree of maleic anhydride (MA) substitutions (DS) are in-demand for producing advanced composites. High-DS maleates are synthesized in imidazolium chloride-based ionic liquids because they could sustain starch-MA esterification, the precise mechanism of which, however, is largely unknown. In this study, we mapped chemical shifts of imidazolium cations before and after MA was added to each of the three starch-[C2mim]Cl, starch-[Amim]Cl, and starch-[C4mim]Cl systems. [C4mim]+ and [Amim]+ cations were observed to form substantial H-bonds with hydroxyls of starch. These hydroxyls could further associate with MA, liberating the bound cations. The liberated [Amim]+ cations, unlike [C4mim]+ cations, could readily donate their C2–H protons to activated MA, providing high-DS maleates (DSNMR ≈ 0.1, DStitration ≈ 1.20). The insights gained from this study would benefit the development of maleates from a wide range of biopolymers and expedite the screening of ionic liquids with varying cation–anion combinations for high-DS maleate synthesis.

New Article: Eco-friendly recyclable high performance ramie yarn reinforced polyimine vitrimer composites

A new article from Ning Yan’s lab has been published in Chemical Engineering Journal written by Pandeng Li, Cheng Hao, Huihui Wnag, Tian He, Tong Su, Cong Lo, Longjiang Yu and Ning Yan.

Click here for the article.


The huge and increasing amount of plastic waste harms wildlife and releases chemical hazards to the environment. Using cellulosic fibers to prepare natural fiber-reinforced plastic composites (NFRPCs) is a promising strategy to decrease plastic wastes and lower their negative impacts because cellulosic fibers are renewable, degradable, and conducive to carbon neutrality. However, the low tensile strength and recycling difficulty of NFRPCs prevent them from substituting nondegradable plastics on an industrial scale. This study prepared high-performance ramie yarn-reinforced polyimine vitrimer composites (RY-PI) that could be recycled both chemically and physically. The polyimine matrix formed a robust bonding interface with ramie yarn via hydrogen bonding. The tensile strength of RY-PI (144MPa) was superior to that of most NFRPCs available in the market and was the highest amongst the NFRPCS with the same fiber fraction (wt%). RY-PI was also lightweight and had good toughness, self-healing ability, moldability, durability to organic solvents, and moisture barrier resistance. A box prepared by four-layer RY-PI laminates could support more than 3,000 times its own weight. The RY-PI was closed-loop recycled through a chemical strategy without any loss of performance. More importantly, a highly efficient (11 minutes for each recycling), low-cost, and eco-friendly (without adding any chemicals) physical recycling method of RY-PI was demonstrated. RY-PI could be physically recycled at least 9 times without any loss of performance. The high performance and good recyclability of RY-PI make it a promising environmental-friendly alternative to many conventional plastic products to help achieve zero plastic waste.

New Article: Catalyst-Free Synthesis of Covalent Adaptable Network (CAN) Polyurethanes from Lignin with Editable Shape Memory Properties

A new article out of a collaboration between Dr. Ning Yan and Dr. Jing Chen’s labs has been published in Science of The Total Environment written by Xiaozhen Ma, Shuqi Li, Fan Wang, Jialong Wu, Yeyan Chao, Xu Chen, Peng Chen, Jin Zhu, Ning Yan and Jing Chen.

You can find the article here.


Here a new strategy of catalyst-free direct synthesis of covalent adaptable network polyurethanes (LPUs) from lignin with editable shape memory effect is reported. Using unmodified lignin, PEG, and isocyanate under the condition of the isocyanate index less than 1.0 (NCO/OH <1.0), a variety of LPUs were obtained. When NCO/OH=0.8, a stable cross-linked network could be formed (ex. the gel content of LPU50-0.8 was 98 ± 0.3 %). The activation energy (Ea) value of LPUs was similar to that of polyhydroxyurethanes (PHUs), at around 110 kJ/mol. With an increase of lignin content, the LPUs showed a transition from ductile fracture to brittle fracture mode. And the mechanical properties of LPUs were significantly enhanced after extrusion processing, with the maximum modulus reaching 649 ± 26 MPa and the maximum toughness up to 9927 ± 111 kJ/m3. The improvement in mechanical properties was due to the homogenization of complex cross-linked network under the powerful external force of the extruder and the lignin that originally was free in the system participated in the exchange reactions. Moreover, LPUs could also be prepared continuously in one step by using an extruder as the reactor. In addition, LPU50-0.8 had an editable shape memory effect. This study developed a novel method for the synthesis of LPU from lignin with NCO/OH<1.0, showcasing new possibilities for value-added utilization of lignin, and expanding the bio-based products portfolio from biomass feedstock to help meet future green manufacturing demands.

New Article: Superhydrophobic lignin-based multifunctional polyurethane foam with SiO2 nanoparticles for efficient oil adsorption and separation

A new article out of a collaboration between Dr. Ning Yan and Dr. Jing Chen’s labs has been published in Science of The Total Environment written by Jialong Wu, Xiaozhen Ma, Pitchaimari Gnanasekar, Fan Wang, Jin Zhu, Ning Yan and Jing Chen.

You can find the article here.


Superhydrophobic polyurethane foam is one of the most promising materials for oil-water separation. However, there are only limited studies prepared matrix superhydrophobic foams as adsorbents. In this paper, SiO2 modified by 1H, 1H, 2H, 2H-perfluorododecyl trichlorosilane (F-SiO2) was added into the lignin-based foam matrix by a one-step foaming technique. The average diameter of F-SiO2 was about 480 nm with an water contact angle (WCA) of 160.3°. The lignin-based polyurethane foam with F-SiO2 had a superhydrophobic water contact angle of 151.3°. There is no obvious change in contact angle after 100 cycles of compression or after cutting and abrasion. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis showed that F-SiO2 was distributed both on the surface and inside of the foam. The efficiency for oil-water separation reached 99 %. Under the light intensity of 1 kW/m2, the surface temperature of the lignin-based foam rose to 77.6 °C. In addition, the foam exhibited self-cleaning properties and degraded within 2 h in an alcoholic alkali solution. Thus, in this study, we developed a novel matrix superhydrophobic lignin-based polyurethane foam with an excellent promise to be used as oil water separation adsorbents in industrial wastewater treatment and oil spill clean-up processes.

New Article: Catalyst-free pH-responsive chitosan-based dynamic covalent framework materials

A new article out of Ning Yan’s lab has been published in Carbohydrate Polymers written by Mohammad H Mahaninia and Ning Yan.

Click here to obtain an e-print of the full article for free until January 5th 2023.


This study reports a first example of chitosan-based dynamic covalent framework materials successfully prepared through one-pot/ultrasonic-assisted amidation reaction via either citric acid (CA) or trimesic acid (TMA) as the linker unit under moderate conditions. Chitosan-based framework materials with residual carboxylic acid functional groups were obtained by tripodal cross-linking reactions without the need of any catalyst. The obtained materials were capable of bond exchange via neighboring group participation (NGP) effect within their dynamic covalent networks. It was demonstrated that the chitosan-based framework materials could undergo a dynamic transamidation reaction to exhibit self-healing characteristics. The structural properties of the synthesized dynamic covalent framework materials were controlled by the type and composition of the tripodal cross-linkers. This study showcased a novel approach to synthesize biodegradable, self-healing, pH-responsive, and selective mixed-dye adsorbent materials using chitosan as the building block.