Mussel-inspired self-assembly of silver nanoclusters into multifunctional silver aerogels for enhanced catalytic and bactericidal applications

A mussel-inspired self-assembly strategy is proposed to fabricate silver aerogels based on ultrasmall silver nanoclusters through a dopamine-assisted gelation process. The fabricated silver aerogels possess excellent catalytic and antibacterial properties owing to the synergistic effect of silver nanoclusters and polydopamine, which holds promising potential as novel multifunctional materials for application in environmental and healthcare fields.


Silver nanoclusters (AgNCs) have shown broad application prospects in catalysis, sensing, and biological fields. However, the limited stability of AgNCs has become the main challenge restricting their practical application in complex environments. Herein, a mussel-inspired, dopamine-assisted self-assembly approach is reported to fabricate 3D AgNC aerogels (PDA/AgNCs), which possess significantly enhanced structural stability and synergistic functional properties. The prepared AgNC aerogels display a hierarchical network structure with an ultrafine ligament size of 10.3 ± 1.2 nm and a high specific surface area of 50.7 m2 g−1. The gelation mechanism is elucidated by in-depth characterization and time-lapse monitoring of the gelation process vis spectroscopic and microscopic approaches. Owing to the distinct features of aerogels and the synergistic effect of AgNCs and PDA, the fabricated aerogels can not only efficiently decolorize dyes with a faster kinetic than individual AgNCs, but also exhibit remarkable broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. Consequently, a conceptual water-treatment device is established by depositing PDA/AgNC aerogels on the cotton substrate, which shows good performance in both catalytic dye degradation and bacterial killing in the flowing system. This mussel-inspired self-assembly strategy has great potential in developing robust AgNC-based functional materials, which also provides a new guideline for designing sophisticated materials with integrated functions and synergistic properties.

Author list:

Yunshan Gao, Jie Xu, Shaohua Qu, Yixiao Li, Gleb B. Sukhorukov, Li Shang*

How to cite:

Y. Gao, J. Xu, S. Qu, Y. Li, G. B. Sukhorukov, L. Shang, Exploration 2024, 20240034.