Flexible near-infrared light writing multi-colour hydrogel system for on-demand information display


May 22, 2023

(Nanowerk NewsA research team, led by Professor CHEN Tao at the Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering (NIMTE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has engineered a versatile, near-infrared light-activated, multicolored hydrogel system that can display data on demands. This breakthrough was published in the journal Advanced Materials (“Light Writing and Projecting Multi-Color Fluorescent Hydrogels for On-Demand Information Displays”).

With the advent of the Internet of Things era, the creation of intelligent and rewritable display systems brings great potential to reduce environmental pollution and resource utilization, which is increasing due to the surge in single-use e-waste. This system is seen as a prospective platform for data display and transmission.

Nonetheless, building a system that combines multiple functions, including remote control, quick activation, and multi-color and multimode displays, remains a significant challenge.

The characteristic vertical configuration of the multi-layered chromatophores on the chameleon’s skin allows the reversible display of colorful patterns. Taking inspiration from these complex structures, the team created a new flexible, rewritable, multicolored hydrogel system with near-infrared light induction capable of displaying data on demand. A multi-colour fluorescent hydrogel system with a biomimetic vertical multilayer structure for on-demand information display A multi-colour fluorescent hydrogel system with a biomimetic vertical multilayer structure for on-demand information display. (Image: NIMTE) (click image to enlarge)

The research team clarified that the hydrogel system adopts a vertically arranged multilayer structure. This structure combines a fluorescent hydrogel layer as the display unit and an effective layer of poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS)-sealed carbon nanotubes (CNTs) films as the control unit.

Specifically, within the fluorescent hydrogel coating, the thermo-responsive fluorescent hydrogel is encased within the non-responsive hydrogel. This configuration enables stable, reversible and multicolored loading of data.

The system operates on a cascading process of “light-triggered heat-generating fluorescence output.” This allows the user to manually display any data, such as letters or numbers, within five seconds using near-infrared light as a writing tool. Data can self-delete for another rewrite cycle within 36 seconds.

Beyond the display of light writing of transient data, the design of this biomimetic multilayer structure was demonstrated to facilitate easy patterning of the photothermal CNT layer and the fluorescent hydrogel display layer. This results in the appearance of a multi-colored pattern that projects light continuously.

This rewritable fluorescent hydrogel display system caters to a wide range of requests for display or data transmission. It enhances data visualization and interactive experience. In addition, this development can provide important insights for the continuous improvement of light writing systems.


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