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Bioinspired Hydrogel Interferometer for Adaptive Coloration and Chemical Sensing

Ruobing Bai's picture

Meng Qin, Mo Sun, Ruobing Bai, Yiqi Mao, Xiaoshi Qian, Dipika Sikka, Yuan Zhao, Hang Jerry Qi, Zhigang Suo, Ximin He


Living organisms ubiquitously display colors that adapt to environmental changes, relying on the soft layer of cells or proteins. Adoption of soft materials into an artificial adaptive color system has promoted the development of material systems for environmental and health monitoring, anticounterfeiting, and stealth technologies. Here, a hydrogel interferometer based on a single hydrogel thin film covalently bonded to a reflective substrate is reported as a simple and universal adaptive color platform. Similar to the cell or protein soft layer of colorchanging animals, the soft hydrogel layer rapidly changes its thickness in response to external stimuli, resulting in instant color change. Such interference colors provide a visual and quantifiable means of revealing rich environmental metrics. Computational model is established and captures the key features of hydrogel stimuliresponsive swelling, which elucidates the mechanism and design principle for the broadbased platform. The single materialbased platform has advantages of remarkable color uniformity, fast response, high robustness, and facile fabrication. Its versatility is demonstrated by diverse applications: a volatilevapor sensor with highly accurate quantitative detection, a colorimetric sensor array for multianalyte recognition, breathcontrolled information encryption, and a colorimetric humidity indicator. Portable and easytouse sensing systems are demonstrated with smartphonebased colorimetric analysis.


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