Thermally Switchable Periodicities and Diffraction from Mesoscopically Ordered Materials

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Science  08 Nov 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5289, pp. 959-963
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5289.959


Two switchable, mesoscopically periodic materials were created by combining crystalline colloidal array (CCA) self-assembly with the temperature-induced volume phase transition of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM). Body-centered-cubic CCAs of hydrated, swollen PNIPAM particles Bragg-diffract infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light weakly, whereas arrays of compact shrunken particles diffract efficiently. A tunable diffracting array was also created by embedding a CCA of polystyrene spheres within a PNIPAM hydrogel that swells and contracts with temperature; thus the array lattice constant varies with temperature, and the diffracted wavelength was thermally tunable across the entire visible spectrum. These materials may find applications in many areas of optics and materials science.

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