Facile fabrication of highly controllable gating systems based on the combination of inverse opal structure and dynamic covalent chemistry
A three-dimensional (3D) inverse opal with periodic and porous structures has shown great potential for applications not only in optics and optoelectronics, but also in functional membranes. In this work, the benzaldehyde group was initially introduced into a 3D nanoporous inverse opal, serving as a platform for fabricating functional membranes. By employing the dynamic covalent approach, a highly controllable gating system was facilely fabricated to achieve modulable and reversible transport features. It was found that the physical/chemical properties and pore size of the gating system could easily be regulated through post-modification with amines. As a demonstration, the gated nanopores were modified with three kinds of amines to control the wettability, surface charge and nanopore size which in turn was exploited to achieve selective mass transport, including hydrophobic molecules, cations and anions, and the transport with respect to the physical steric hindrance. In particular, the gating system showed extraordinary reversibility and could recover to its pristine state by simply changing pH values. Due to the unlimited variety provided by the Schiff base reaction, the inverse opal described here exhibits a significant extendibility and could be easily post-modified with stimuli-responsive molecules for special purposes. Furthermore, this work can be extended to employ other dynamic covalent routes, for example Diels–Alder, ester exchange and disulfide exchange-based routes.