Crack-free inverse opals exhibit a sharply defined threshold wettability for infiltration that has enabled their use as colourimetric indicators for liquid identification. Here we demonstrate direct and continuous photo-tuning of this wetting threshold in inverse opals whose surfaces are function- alized with a polymer doped with azobenzene chromophores.
Inspired by the long-term effectiveness of living antifouling materials, we have developed a method for the self- replenishment of synthetic biofouling-release surfaces. These surfaces are created by either molding or directly embedding 3D vascular systems into polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and filling them with a silicone oil to generate a nontoxic oil- infused material. When replenished with silicone oil from an outside source, these materials are capable of self-lubrication and continuous renewal of the interfacial fouling-release layer. Under accelerated lubricant loss conditions, fully infused vascularized samples retained significantly more lubricant than equivalent nonvascularized controls. Tests of lubricant-infused PDMS in static cultures of the infectious bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli as well as the green microalgae Botryococcus braunii, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Dunaliella salina, and Nannochloropsis oculata showed a significant reduction in biofilm adhesion compared to PDMS and glass controls containing no lubricant. Further experiments on vascularized versus nonvascularized samples that had been subjected to accelerated lubricant evaporation conditions for up to 48 h showed significantly less biofilm adherence on the vascularized surfaces. These results demonstrate the ability of an embedded lubricant-filled vascular network to improve the longevity of fouling-release surfaces.
Dynamic materials that can sense changes in their surroundings and functionally respond by altering many of their physical characteristics are primed to be integral components of future “smart” technologies. A fundamental reason for the adaptability of biological organisms is their innate ability to convert environmental or chemical cues into mechanical motion and reconfiguration on both the molecular and macroscale. However, design and engineering of robust chemomechanical behavior in artificial materials has proven a challenge. Such systems can be quite complex and often require intricate coordination between both chemical and mechanical inputs and outputs, as well as the combination of multiple materials working cooperatively to achieve the proper functionality. It is critical to not only understand the fundamental behaviors of existing dynamic chemo- mechanical systems but also apply that knowledge and explore new avenues for design of novel materials platforms that could provide a basis for future adaptive technologies. In this Account, we explore the chemomechanical behavior, properties, and applications of hybrid-material surfaces consisting of environmentally sensitive hydrogels integrated within arrays of high-aspect-ratio nano- or microstructures. This bio-inspired approach, in which the volume-changing hydrogel acts as the “muscle” that reversibly actuates the microstructured “bones”, is highly tunable and customizable. Although straightforward in concept, the combination of just these two materials (structures and hydrogel) has given rise to a far more complex set of actuation mechanisms and behaviors. Variations in how the hydrogel is physically integrated within the structure array provide the basis for three fundamental mechanisms of actuation, each with its own set of responsive properties and chemomechanical behavior. Further control over how the chemical stimulus is applied to the surface, such as with microfluidics, allows for generation of more precise and varied patterns of actuation. We also discuss the possible applications of these hybrid surfaces for chemomechanical manipulation of reactions, including the generation of chemomechanical feedback loops. Comparing and contrasting these many approaches and techniques, we aim to put into perspective their highly tunable and diverse capabilities but also their future challenges and impacts.
We present a reproducible, one-pot colloidal co-assembly approach that results in large-scale, highly ordered porous silica films with embedded, uniformly distributed, accessible gold nanoparticles. The unique coloration of these inverse opal films combines iridescence with plasmonic effects. The coupled optical properties are easily tunable either by changing the concentration of added nanoparticles to the solution before assembly or by localized growth of the embedded Au nanoparticles upon exposure to tetrachloroauric acid solution, after colloidal template removal. The presence of the selectively absorbing particles furthermore enhances the hue and saturation of the inverse opals’ color by suppressing incoherent diffuse scattering. The composition and optical properties of these films are demonstrated to be locally tunable using selective functionalization of the doped opals.
Using self-assembly, nanoscale materials can be fabricated from the bottom up. Opals and inverse opals are examples of self-assembled nanomaterials made from crystallizing colloidal particles. As self-assembly requires a high level of control, it is challenging to use building blocks with anisotropic geometry to form complex opals, which limits the possible structures. Typically, spherical colloids are employed as building blocks, leading to symmetric, isotropic superstructures. However, a significantly richer palette of directionally dependent properties are expected if less symmetric, anisotropic structures can be created, especially originating from the assembly of regular, spherical particles. Here we show a simple method for introducing anisotropy into inverse opals by subjecting them to a post-assembly thermal treatment that results in directional shrinkage of the silica matrix caused by condensation of partially hydrated sol−gel silica structures. In this way, we can tailor the shape of the pores, and the anisotropy of the final inverse opal preserves the order and uniformity of the self-assembled structure. Further, we prevent the need to synthesize complex oval-shaped particles and crystallize them into such target geometries. Detailed X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and infrared spectroscopy studies clearly identify increasing degrees of sol−gel condensation in confinement as a mechanism for the structure change. A computer simulation of structure changes resulting from the condensation-induced shrinkage further confirmed this mechanism. As an example of property changes induced by the introduction of anisotropy, we characterized the optical spectra of the anisotropic inverse opals and found that the optical properties can be controlled in a precise way using calcination temperature.
We provide an overview of our recent advances in the manipulation of wetting in inverse-opal photonic crystals. Exploiting photonic crystals with spatially patterned surface chemistry to confine the infiltration of fluids to liquidspecific spatial patterns, we developed a highly selective scheme for colorimetry, where organic liquids are distinguished based on wetting. The high selectivity of wetting, upon-which the sensitivity of the response relies, and the bright iridescent color, which disappears when the pores are filled with liquid, are both a result of the highly symmetric pore structure of our inverse-opal films. The application of horizontally or vertically orientated gradients in the surface chemistry allows a unique response to be tailored to specific liquids. While the generic nature of wetting makes our approach to colorimetry suitable for applications in liquid authentication or identification across a broad range of industries, it also ensures chemical non-specificity. However, we show that chemical specificity can be achieved combinatorially using an array of indicators that each exploits different chemical gradients to cover the same dynamic range of response. Finally, incorporating a photo-responsive polyelectrolyte surface layer into the pores, we are able to dynamically and continuously photo-tune the wetting response, even while the film is immersed in liquid. This in situ optical control of liquid percolation in our photonic-crystal films may also provide an error-free means to tailor indicator response, naturally compensating for batch-to-batch variability in the pore geometry.
Various life forms in nature display a high level of adaptability to their environments through the use of sophisticated material interfaces. This is exemplifi ed by numerous biological systems, such as the self-cleaning of lotus leaves, the water-walking abilities of water striders and spiders, the ultra-slipperiness of pitcher plants, the directional liquid adhesion of butterfl y wings, and the water collection capabilities of beetles, spider webs, and cacti. The versatile interactions of these natural surfaces with fl uids, or special wettability, are enabled by their unique micro/nanoscale surface structures and intrinsic material properties. Many of these biological designs and principles have inspired new classes of functional interfacial materials, which have remarkable potential to solve some of the engineering challenges for industrial and biomedical applications. In this article, we provide a snapshot of the state of the art of biologically inspired materials with special wettability, and discuss some promising future directions for the field.