Multi-stimuli responsive photonic hydrogel based on a novel photonic crystal template containing gold nanorods†
Multi-stimuli responsive photonic hydrogels (MRPHs) fabricated by doping nanoparticles into hydrogels show promising potential value in the fields of visual detection and drug delivery. However, complicated surface chemical modification is selected to improve the compatibility between nanoparticles and a pre-gel solution of hydrogel. Herein, we developed a simple and convenient vertical deposition method to prepare a novel photonic crystal (PC) template containing gold nanorods (Au NRs) (Au NRs/PC template), which could respond to near-infrared (NIR) light due to the conversion capability of Au NRs from NIR light to heat. Additionally, carboxyl groups on the surface of polystyrene (PS) colloids endowed the Au NRs/PC template with pH-stimulus responsiveness. Based on the Au NRs/PC template, MRPH film was fabricated by infiltrating the pre-gel solution of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) hydrogel into the gap of a ‘sandwich’ structure through capillary forces and then polymerizing at 25 °C for 24 h. The obtained MRPH film could respond to NIR light, pH and temperature. Under the irradiation of NIR light, only the irradiated position lost structural color while the film volume had no distinct change. With the increase of ambient temperature, the whole MRPH film completely lost structural color and shrank significantly, which was greatly different from the phenomenon irradiated by NIR light. Besides, the structural color of the MRPH film exhibited a red shift from green to orange-red as the pH increased. Overall, both the Au NRs/PC template and the MRPH film may have potential applications in visual detection, due to their multi-stimuli responsiveness.