Generating bulk-scale ordered optical materials using shear-assembly in viscoelastic media

31 Jul 2017

We review recent advances in the generation of photonics materials over large areas and volumes, using the paradigm of shear-induced ordering of composite polymer nanoparticles. The hard-core/soft-shell design of these particles produces quasi-solid “gum-like” media, with a viscoelastic ensemble response to applied shear, in marked contrast to the behavior seen in colloidal and granular systems. Applying an oscillatory shearing method to sub-micron spherical nanoparticles gives elastomeric photonic crystals (or “polymer opals”) with intense tunable structural color. The further engineering of this shear-ordering using a controllable “roll-to-roll” process known as Bending Induced Oscillatory Shear (BIOS), together with the interchangeable nature of the base composite particles, opens potentially transformative possibilities for mass manufacture of nano-ordered materials, including advances in optical materials, photonics, and metamaterials/plasmonics.