Responsive ionic liquid–polymer 2D photonic crystal gas sensors†
We developed novel air-stable 2D polymerized photonic crystal (2DPC) sensing materials for visual detection of gas phase analytes such as water and ammonia by utilizing a new ionic liquid, ethylguanidine perchlorate (EGP) as the mobile phase. Because of the negligible ionic liquid vapor pressure these 2DPC sensors are indefinitely air stable and, therefore, can be used to sense atmospheric analytes. 2D arrays of ∼640 nm polystyrene nanospheres were attached to the surface of crosslinked poly(hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (pHEMA)-based polymer networks dispersed in EGP. The wavelength of the bright 2D photonic crystal diffraction depends sensitively on the 2D array particle spacing. The volume phase transition response of the EGP–pHEMA system to water vapor or gaseous ammonia changes the 2DPC particle spacing, enabling the visual determination of the analyte concentration. Water absorbed by EGP increases the Flory–Huggins interaction parameter, which shrinks the polymer network and causes a blue shift in the diffracted light. Ammonia absorbed by the EGP deprotonates the pHEMA-co-acrylic acid carboxyl groups, swelling the polymer which red shifts the diffracted light.