Nanomaterials in Nature
Natural nanomaterials are enjoying a surge in interest as a novel family of materials due to being safe and harmless to human health and the ecological environment. Nanoclays are an important family of natural nanomaterials, composed of safe, naturally abundant elements such as Si, O, Al, Mg, Ca, and Fe. Nanoclays have special nanoscale structures, morphologies and diverse dimensions from 1D to 3D.
Nanorods, nanofibers, nanotubes, nanosheets and nanoarchitectures, widely used in modern industry and human life can all be found in nature. Thus, nanoclay-based materials have been recognized as future “green materials” and show huge prospects in the fields of environment, energy, fine chemicals and catalysis. Moreover, Nanoclays are key in the construction of some hybrid functional materials, and so are playing more and more roles in developing new eco-friendly functional materials.
A variety of natural polymers/clays composites have been developed and are being used in biological, medicinal and environment remediation applications. However, there is still a long way to go to substitute traditional synthetic nanomaterials with natural ones. Firstly, the natural clay mineral needs to be dispersed in nanoscale and even smaller sizes by physical/chemical methods to ensure sufficient dispersion. Secondly, the dispersed nanoclay needs to be modified by a chemical approach to tune its surface properties. Thirdly, the modified nanoclay sometimes needs to be compounded with other materials to form composites with superior performance