Hierarchically structured photonic crystals for integrated chemical separation and colorimetric detection†
A SiO2 colloidal photonic crystal film with a hierarchical porous structure is fabricated to demonstrate an integrated separation and colorimetric detection of chemical species for the first time. This new photonic crystal based thin layer chromatography process requires no dyeing, developing and UV irradiation compared to the traditional TLC. The assembling of mesoporous SiO2 particles via a supersaturation-induced-precipitation process forms uniform and hierarchical photonic crystals with micron-scale cracks and mesopores, which accelerate the diffusion of developers and intensify the adsorption/desorption between the analytes and silica for efficient separation. Meanwhile, the chemical substances infiltrated to the voids of photonic crystals cause an increase of the refractive index and a large contrast of structural colors towards the unloaded part, so that the sample spots can be directly recognized with the naked eye before and after separation.