Programmed Multi-responsive Hydrogel Assemblies with Light-tunable Mechanical Properties, Actuation and Fluorescence

Dongdong Lu, Mingning Zhu, Shanglin Wu, Qing Lian, Wenkai Wang, Daman Adlam, Judith Hoyland, Brian Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fabrication strategies for programmed hydrogels that provide precise spatial control with predetermined responses to external stimuli are highly desirable. In this study a partially reversible light-driven assembly (PRLDA) method is introduced to construct multi-responsive hydrogels utilizing microgel (MG) particle building blocks (swollen diameter of 107 nm). No other material is
required to prepare the gels beyond the MGs themselves. We demonstrate facile preparation of multi-responsive hydrogels that are reversibly responsive to light, pH and temperature using phototriggered covalent interlinking of coumarin-based MGs. The gels have photo-tuneable moduli and swelling ratios and show light-assisted healing and re-shaping. Remarkably, the intrinsic fluorescence of the gels undergoes a reversible light-triggered wavelength-shift. The emission peak blue-shifted from 420 nm to 390 nm upon irradiation with 365 nm light. The PRLDA gels can be constructed using either positive or negative photo-patterning. We show that the gels can be exploited for multi-responsive cytocompatible actuators, grippers and ON/OFF circuit components as well as anti-counterfeit gels. The PRLDA method provides new insight into programmed gel property control and has excellent potential for biomaterial and optoelectronic applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1909359
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number11
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • coumarin
  • fluorescence
  • hydrogel
  • microgel
  • multiresponsive


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