Stimuli-responsive photonic crystals (PCs) represent an intriguing class of smart materials very promising for sensing applications. Here, selective ionic strength responsive polymeric PCs are reported. They are easily fabricated by partial sulfonation of polystyrene opals, without using toxic or expensive monomers and etching steps. The color of the resulting hydrogel-like ordered structures can be continuously shifted over the entire visible range (405-760 nm) by changing the content of ions over an extremely wide range of concentration (from about 70 μM to 4 M). The optical response is completely independent from pH and temperature, and the initial color can be fully recovered by washing the sulfonated opals with pure water. These new smart photonic materials could find important applications as ionic strength sensors for environmental monitoring as well as for healthcare screening.
ASJC Scopus subject areas