Nanomaterials (Basel). 2023 Aug 6;13(15):2258. doi: 10.3390/nano13152258.
Cellulose has been a go-to material for its dielectric properties from the onset of capacitor development. The demand for an energy storage solution continues to grow, but the supply remains limited and relies too often on fossil and mined materials. This work proposes a fully sustainable and green method with which to produce dielectric thin films made of renewable and degradable materials. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) made an excellent matrix for the dispersion of proteins and the fabrication of robust transparent thin films with enhanced dielectric permittivity. A range of proteins sources, additives and concentrations allowed for us to control the dielectric permittivity from εr = 4 to 50. The proteins screened came from animal and plant sources. The films were formed from drying a water suspension of the CNC and proteins through evaporation-induced self-assembly. This yielded nano-layered structures with very high specific surface areas, ideal for energy storage devices. The resulting films were characterized with respect to the electrical, mechanical, piezoelectric, and optical properties to be compared. Electrically conductive (σ = 1.53 × 103 S/m) CNC films were prepared with carbon nanotubes (CNT). The fabricated films were used to make flexible, sustainable, and degradable capacitors by layering protein-based films between CNC-CNT composite films.