Switching light with light – advanced functional colloidal monolayers†
Colloidal monolayers comprising of highly ordered two dimensional crystals are of high interest to generate surface patterns for a variety of different applications. Mostly, unfunctionalized polymer or silica colloids are assembled into monolayers. However, the incorporation of functional molecules into such colloids offers a convenient possibility of implementing additional properties to the two-dimensional crystal. Here, we present the formation of novel functional colloidal monolayers with photoswitchable fluorescence. The miniemulsion polymerization technique was used to incorporate an appropriate dye system of a perylene-based fluorophore and a bis-arylethene as a photochrome in polymeric colloids in defined ratios. Upon irradiation with UV or visible light the photochrome reversibly isomerizes from the ring-closed form, which is able to absorb light of the emission wavelength of the fluorescent dye and the ring-open form, which is not. The fluorescence emission of the dye can thus be reversibly switched on and off with light even when embedded in colloids. The colloids were self-assembled at the air–water interface to produce hexagonally ordered functional monolayers and more complex binary crystals. We investigate in detail the influence of the polymeric matrix on the switching properties of the fluorophore/photochrome system and find that the rate constants for the photoswitching, which all lie in the same range, are less influenced by the polymeric environment than expected. We demonstrate the reversible switching of the fluorescence emission in self-assembled colloidal monolayers. The arrangement of broadly distributed functional colloids into ordered monolayers with high addressability was obtained by the formation of binary colloidal monolayers.