Nano Letters DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b04421 Publication Date (Web): January 9, 2018
Biological materials have the ability to withstand extreme mechanical forces due to their unique multilevel hierarchical structure. Here, we fabricated a nacre-mimetic nanocomposite comprised of silk fibroin and graphene oxide that exhibits hybridized dynamic responses arising from alternating high-contrast mechanical properties of the components at the nanoscale. Dynamic mechanical behavior of these nanocomposites is assessed through a microscale ballistic characterization using a 7.6 μm diameter silica sphere moving at a speed of approximately 400 m/s. The volume fraction of graphene oxide in these composites is systematically varied from 0 to 32 vol % to quantify the dynamic effects correlating with the structural morphologies of the graphene oxide flakes. Specific penetration energy of the films rapidly increases as the distribution of graphene oxide flakes evolves from noninteracting, isolated sheets to a partially overlapping continuous sheet. The specific penetration energy of the nanocomposite at the highest graphene oxide content tested here is found to be significantly higher than that of Kevlar fabrics and close to that of pure multilayer graphene. This study evidently demonstrates that the morphologies of nanoscale constituents and their interactions are critical to realize scalable high-performance nanocomposites using typical nanomaterial constituents having finite dimensions.