Wetting in Color
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CitationBurgess, Ian Bruce. 2012. Wetting in Color. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractColorimetric litmus tests such as pH paper have enjoyed wide commercial success due to their inexpensive production and exceptional ease of use. However, expansion of colorimetry to new sensing paradigms is challenging because macroscopic color changes are seldom coupled to arbitrary differences in the physical/chemical properties of a system. In this thesis I present in detail the development of Wetting in Color Technology, focusing primarily on its application as an inexpensive and highly selective colorimetric indicator for organic liquids. The technology exploits chemically-encoded inverse-opal photonic crystals to control the infiltration of fluids to liquid-specific spatial patterns, projecting minute differences in liquids’ wettability to macroscopically distinct, easy-to-visualize structural color patterns. It is shown experimentally and corroborated with theoretical modeling using percolation theory that the high selectivity of wetting, upon-which the sensitivity of the indicator relies, is caused by the highly symmetric structure of our large-area, defect-free \(SiO_2\) inverse-opals. The regular structure also produces a bright iridescent color, which disappears when infiltrated with liquid naturally coupling the optical and fluidic responses. Surface modification protocols are developed, requiring only silanization and selective oxidation, to facilitate the deterministic design of an indicator that differentiates a broad range of liquids. The resulting tunable, built-in horizontal and vertical chemistry gradients allow the wettability threshold to be tailored to specific liquids across a continuous range, and make the readout rely only on countable color differences. As wetting is a generic fluidic phenomenon, Wetting in Color technology could be suitable for applications in authentication or identification of unknown liquids across a broad range of industries. However, the generic nature of the response also ensures chemical non-specificity. It is shown that combinatorial measurements from an array of indicators add a degree of chemical specificity to the platform, which can be further improved by monitoring the drying of the inverse-opal films. While colorimetry is the central focus of this thesis, applications of this platform in encryption, fluidics and nanofabrication are also briefly explored.
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