This research introduces a novel approach to control light transmittance based on flexible polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) films that have been plasma-treated such that micro-scale surface features have a visual effect as the film responds to applied strain. The effect is continuously tunable from optically clear (71.5% Transmittance over a 400–900 nm wavelength) to completely diffuse (18.1% T). Changes in the film's optical properties are triggered by bi-axial strains applied using a pneumatic system to form pressurized envelopes. This paper reports on a series of experimental studies and provides system integration research using prototypes, simulations and geometric models to correlate measured optical properties, strain, and global surface curvatures. In conclusion, a design is proposed to integrate PDMS light control within existing building envelopes.
Two alternatives are investigated and compared: System A uses positive pressure featuring an exterior grid to restrain and shape the inflated film during expansion; System B uses negative pressure where the films are shaped according to the geometry of an interstitial grid that serves as a spacer between two film surfaces. Both systems can provide effective control of opacity levels using pneumatic pressure and may be suitable for use with existing glazing systems or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) pneumatic envelopes.
Microscale flows of fluids are mainly guided either by solid matrices or by liquid–liquid interfaces. However, the solid matrices are plagued with persistent fouling problems, while liquid–liquid interfaces are limited to low-pressure applications. Here we report a dynamic liquid/solid/gas material containing both air and liquid pockets, which are formed by partially infiltrating a porous matrix with a functional liquid. Using detailed theoretical and experimental data, we show that the distribution of the air- and liquid-filled pores is responsive to pressure and enables the formation and instantaneous recovery of stable liquid–liquid interfaces that sustain a wide range of pressures and prevent channel contamination. This adaptive design is demonstrated for polymeric materials and extended to metal-based systems that can achieve unmatched mechanical and thermal stability. Our platform with its unique adaptive pressure and antifouling capabilities may offer potential solutions to flow control in microfluidics, medical devices, microscale synthesis, and biological assays.
Inorganic microstructured materials are ubiquitous in nature. However, their formation in artificial self-assembly systems is challenging as it involves a complex interplay of competing forces during and after assembly. For example, colloidal assembly requires fine-tuning of factors such as the size and surface charge of the particles and electrolyte strength of the solvent to enable successful self-assembly and minimize crack formation. Co-assembly of templating colloidal particles together with a sol–gel matrix precursor material helps to release stresses that accumulate during drying and solidification, as previously shown for the formation of high-quality inverse opal (IO) films out of amorphous silica. Expanding this methodology to crystalline materials would result in microscale architectures with enhanced photonic, electronic, and catalytic properties. This work describes tailoring the crystallinity of metal oxide precursors that enable the formation of highly ordered, large-area (mm2) crack-free titania, zirconia, and alumina IO films. The same bioinspired approach can be applied to other crystalline materials as well as structures beyond IOs.