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Rapidly Responsive and Flexible Chiral Nematic Cellulose Nanocrystal Composites as Multifunctional Rewritable Photonic Papers with Eco-Friendly Inks

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posted on 2018-01-24, 00:00 authored by Hao Wan, Xiaofeng Li, Liang Zhang, Xiaopeng Li, Pengfei Liu, Zhiguo Jiang, Zhong-Zhen Yu
Rapidly responsive and flexible photonic papers are manufactured by coassembly of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and waterborne polyurethane (WPU) latex for fully taking advantage of the chiral nematic structure of CNCs and the flexibility of WPU elastomer. The resulting CNC/WPU composite papers exhibit not only tunable iridescent colors by adjusting the helical pitch size, but also instant optical responses to water and wet gas, ascribed to the easy chain movement of the elastomeric WPU that does not restrict the fast water absorption-induced swelling of CNCs. By choosing water or NaCl aqueous solutions as inks, the colorful patterns on the CNC/WPU photonic paper can be made temporary, durable, or even disguisable. In addition, the photonic paper is simultaneously rewritable for all these three types of patterns, and the disguisable patterns, which are invisible at normal times and show up under stimuli, exhibit a quick reveal conversion just by exhaling on the paper. The rewritability, rapid responsibility, easy fabrication, and the eco-friendly nature of the inks make the flexible photonic paper/ink combination highly promising in sensors, displays, and photonic circuits.