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  1. Abstract

    Naturally derived biopolymers have attracted great interest to construct photonic materials with multi-scale ordering, adaptive birefringence, chiral organization, actuation and robustness. Nevertheless, traditional processing commonly results in non-uniform organization across large-scale areas. Here, we report magnetically steerable uniform biophotonic organization of cellulose nanocrystals decorated with superparamagnetic nanoparticles with strong magnetic susceptibility, enabling transformation from helicoidal cholesteric (chiral nematic) to uniaxial nematic phase with near-perfect orientation order parameter of 0.98 across large areas. We demonstrate that magnetically triggered high shearing rate of circular flow exceeds those for conventional evaporation-based assembly by two orders of magnitude. This high rate shearing facilitates unconventional unidirectional orientation of nanocrystals along gradient magnetic field and untwisting helical organization. These translucent magnetic films are flexible, robust, and possess anisotropic birefringence and light scattering combined with relatively high optical transparency reaching 75%. Enhanced mechanical robustness and uniform organization facilitate fast, multimodal, and repeatable actuation in response to magnetic field, humidity variation, and light illumination.

  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 24, 2023
  3. Low molecular weight hydrogels are made of small molecules that aggregate via noncovalent interactions. Here, comprehensive characterization of the physical and chemical properties of hydrogels made from thioglycolipids of the disaccharides lactose and cellobiose with simple alkyl chains is reported. While thiolactoside hydrogels are robust, thiocellobioside gels are metastable, precipitating over time into fibrous crystals that can be entangled to create pseudo-hydrogels. Rheology confirms the viscoelastic solid nature of these hydrogels with storage moduli ranging from 10–600 kPa. Additionally, thiolactoside hydrogels are thixotropic which is a desirable property for many potential applications. Freeze-fracture electron microscopy of xerogels shows layers of stacked sheets that are entangled into networks. These structures are unique compared to the fibers or ribbons typically reported for hydrogels. Differential scanning calorimetry provides gel-to-liquid phase transition temperatures ranging from 30 to 80 °C. Prodan fluorescence spectroscopy allows assignment of phase transitions in the gels and other lyotropic phases of high concentration samples. Phase diagrams are estimated for all hydrogels at 1–10 wt% from 5 to ≥ 80 °C. These hydrogels represent a series of interesting materials with unique properties that make them attractive for numerous potential applications.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 26, 2023