American Chemical Society
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Frozen “Tofu” Effect: Engineered Pores of Hydrophilic Nanoporous Materials

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posted on 2017-08-23, 08:14 authored by Dengxin Ji, Haomin Song, Borui Chen, Feng Zhang, Alec R. Cheney, Nan Zhang, Xie Zeng, John D. Atkinson, Chi Zhou, Alexander N. Cartwright, Qiaoqiang Gan
Frozen tofu is a famous Asian food made by freezing soft bean curds, which are naturally porous to store flavor and nutrients. When the narrow pores of the soft bean curd are saturated with water and then frozen, pore widths expand to generate a completely new porous structurefrozen tofu has visibly wider pores than the initial bean curd. Intriguingly, this principle can be generalized and applied to manipulate micro/nanopores of functional porous materials. In this work, we will manipulate the pore size of nanoporous polymeric photonic crystals based on the phase change between water and ice. Wet-drying and freeze-drying methods were applied to shrink or expand the pore size intentionally. This principle is validated by directly observing the optical reflection peak shift of the material. Owing to the change in pore size, the reflection peak of the polymeric photonic crystal structure can be permanently, and intentionally, tuned. This simple but elegant mechanism is promising for the development of smart materials/devices for applications ranging from oil/water membrane separations, health monitoring, and medical diagnostics to environmental monitoring, anticounterfeiting, and smart windows.

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