Nature communications

Cephalopod-inspired design of electro-mechano-chemically responsive elastomers for on-demand fluorescent patterning.

PMID 25225837


Cephalopods can display dazzling patterns of colours by selectively contracting muscles to reversibly activate chromatophores--pigment-containing cells under their skins. Inspired by this novel colouring strategy found in nature, we design an electro-mechano-chemically responsive elastomer system that can exhibit a wide variety of fluorescent patterns under the control of electric fields. We covalently couple a stretchable elastomer with mechanochromic molecules, which emit strong fluorescent signals if sufficiently deformed. We then use electric fields to induce various patterns of large deformation on the elastomer surface, which displays versatile fluorescent patterns including lines, circles and letters on demand. Theoretical models are further constructed to predict the electrically induced fluorescent patterns and to guide the design of this class of elastomers and devices. The material and method open promising avenues for creating flexible devices in soft/wet environments that combine deformation, colorimetric and fluorescent response with topological and chemical changes in response to a single remote signal.