Optical components made of multiresponsive microgels
“Intelligent” materials that can respond to external stimuli are high on the wish lists of many scientists because of their possible usefulness in various applications from sensors to microrobotics. Canadian researchers are working with polymer-based microgels that can swell and shrink.
In the journal Angewandte Chemie, they introduce tiny, stacked structures of microgels whose optical properties change in response to light, changes in pH value, or temperature. They can also detect nerve gases.
Gels are cross-linked molecules that can hold a liquid within their “loops”, which makes them swell up; microgels are "small" colloidally stable gel particles. The microgels being investigated by Michael J. Serpe and his team at the University of Alberta are swollen at temperatures below 32 °C; at higher temperatures they collapse and shrink.
The researchers used these materials to make small stacked structures called etalons: they enclosed a whisper-thin layer of microgel between two thin layers of gold. When the gel swells up, the two sheets of gold move farther apart, when it shrinks they get closer to each other. The optical properties of the stack change significantly as the distance between the gold layers changes, meaning that they “respond” to a change in temperature.
However, the goal is to make the gels react to other stimuli besides temperature. The researchers thus also incorporated triphenylmethane leucohydroxide (TPL) into their microgels. This substance is a true jack-of-all-trades that makes the microgels receptive to a variety of stimuli.
Now irradiation with red laser light, which is absorbed by the TPL, leads to a local rise in temperature within the microgel, which causes the distance between the gold layers to decrease. In contrast, irradiation with UV light excites the TPL molecules so that they dissociate into leuco cations and hydroxy anions. The charges of these ions cause the microgel to absorb additional water—increasing the distance between the gold layers.
These effects make the microgel stacks interesting for the production of adjustable optical components. Another possible application is for drug delivery with remote triggering: when a diseased area of the body is irradiated with high-wavelength light through the skin, the drug contained in the transporter can be released selectively in only the desired location.
The microgel also reacts to a change in pH value: an acidic pH causes the formation of leuco cations, whose positive charge causes the gel to swell by taking up water. If the pH is raised back up, the microgel shrinks. This could be used for the selective release of antitumor drugs because tumors often have a somewhat different pH value than the surrounding tissue.
Interestingly, organophosphates react with TPL molecules, also forming leuco cations. The resulting swelling of the microgel and changes in the optical properties of the stacks could be used for the quantitative detection of nerve gases like tabun.
About the Author
Dr. Michael J. Serpe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Alberta. His research is focused on using polymer-based materials for multiple applications; with a particular focus on developing novel point of care diagnostics, water remediation systems, and polymer-based muscles and actuators. He was recently named a Grand Challenges Canada Rising Star in Global Health, received the 2013 Petro Canada Young Innovator Award, and has been named one of Edmonton's Top 40 Under 40 by Avenue Magazine for 2013-2014.
Author: Michael J. Serpe, University of Alberta, Edmonton (Canada), http://www.chem.ualberta.ca/~serpe/Serpe_Group/Serpe_Group_Home.html
Title: Optical Devices Constructed from Multiresponsive Microgels
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201402641
Michael J. Serpe | Angewandte Chemie
Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy