Deformable and conformal silk hydrogel inverse opal [Applied Physical Sciences]
Photonic crystals (PhCs) efficiently manipulate photons at the nanoscale. Applying these crystals to biological tissue that has been subjected to large deformation and humid environments can lead to fascinating bioapplications such as in vivo biosensors and artificial ocular prostheses. These applications require that these PhCs have mechanical durability, deformability, and biocompatibility. Herein, we introduce a deformable and conformal silk hydrogel inverse opal (SHIO); the photonic lattice of this 3D PhC can be deformed by mechanical strain. This SHIO is prepared by the UV cross-linking of a liquid stilbene/silk solution, to give a transparent and elastic hydrogel. The pseudophotonic band gap (pseudo-PBG) of this material can be stably tuned by deformation of the photonic lattice (stretching, bending, and compressing). Proof-of-concept experiments demonstrate that the SHIO can be applied as an ocular prosthesis for better vision, such as that provided by the tapeta lucida of nocturnal or deep-sea animals.
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