Bio-inspired Highly Scattering Networks via Polymer Phase Separation

10 May 2018

A common strategy to optimize whiteness in living organisms consists in using three-dimensional random networks with dense and polydisperse scattering elements constituted by relatively low-refractive index materials. Inspired by these natural architectures, we developed a fast and scalable method to produce highly scattering porous polymer films via phase separation. By varying the molecular weight of the polymer, we modified the morphology of the porous films and therefore tuned their scattering properties. The achieved transport mean free paths are in the micrometer range, improving the scattering strength of analogous low-refractive index systems, e.g. standard white paper, by an order of magnitude. The produced porous films show a broadband reflectivity of approximately 75 % whilst only 4 m thick. In addition, the films are flexible and can be readily index-matched with water (i.e. they become transparent when wet), allowing for various applications such as coatings with tunable transmittance and responsive paints.