In this brief review we address a range of interesting applications and prospects of responsive hydrogel thin films for the fabrication of “smart” responsive surfaces, membranes, sensors with various transduction mechanisms, micro/nanoactuators, and capsules. We show that hydrogel thin films compete with grafted polymers and demonstrate strong advantages for the fabrication of robust multifunctional and multiresponsive surfaces. This article reviews recent publications on the synthesis of responsive hydrogel thin films and hybrid films with entrapped nanoparticles and reagents by the chemical crosslinking of reactive polymers, layer-by-layer deposition, and block-copolymer self-assembly, as well as examining those publications to determine a range of applications.
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