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J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Mar 12;130(10):3113-9. doi: 10.1021/ja077979+. Epub 2008 Feb 14.

Polymerized PolyHEMA photonic crystals: pH and ethanol sensor materials.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA.


The surface of monodisperse silica particles synthesized using the Stober process were coated with a thin layer of polystyrene. Surface charge groups were attached by a grafting polymerization of styrene sulfonate. The resulting highly charged monodisperse silica particles self-assemble into crystalline colloidal arrays (CCA) in deionized water. We polymerized hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA) around the CCA to form a HEMA-polymerized crystalline colloidal array (PCCA). Hydrofluoric acid was utilized to etch out the silica particles to produce a three-dimensional periodic array of voids in the HEMA PCCA. The diffraction from the embedded CCA sensitively monitors the concentration of ethanol in water because the HEMA PCCA shows a large volume dependence on ethanol due to a decreased Flory-Huggins mixing parameter. Between pure water and 40% ethanol the diffraction shifts across the entire visible spectral region. We accurately modeled the dependence of the diffraction wavelength on ethanol concentration using Flory theory. We also fabricated a PCCA (which responds to pH changes in both low and high ionic strength solutions) by utilizing a second polymerization to incorporate carboxyl groups into the HEMA PCCA. We were also able to model the pH dependence of diffraction of the HEMA PCCA by using Flory theory. An unusual feature of the pH response is a hysteresis in response to titration to higher and lower pH. This hysteresis results from the formation of a Donnan potential at high pH which shifts the ionic equilibrium. The kinetics of equilibration is very slow due to the ultralow diffusion constant of protons in the carboxylated PCCA as predicted earlier by the Tanaka group.

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