Because of dysprosium's unique physical and chemical properties and limited supply, the price of rare earth dysprosium has been high in recent years. Therefore, the study of the method of high efficiency selective separation of dysprosium has the double value of scientific research and practical economy. In this paper, we used periodic cellulose nanocrystals as the basic structure, polyethylenimine and graphene oxide were introduced, combined with imprinting technology, to construct porous imprinted aerogel and use it for selective adsorption of Dy(III). The physical and chemical properties were characterized by SEM, TEM, FT-IR and TGA. It was proved that both polyethylenimine and graphene oxide were crosslinked effectively with cellulose nanocrystals. Adsorption experiments showed that the composite imprinted aerogel could selectively adsorb dysprosium effectively, and the maximum adsorption capacity for Dy(III) was 39.027 mg g− 1. The reproducibility experiment showed that aerogel had good regeneration ability. In conclusion, cellulose nanocrystals aerogel, which is environmentally friendly, efficient and repeatable, is expected to provide a new direction for the recovery of rare earth elements.