The Self-Assembly of Cellulose Nanocrystals: Hierarchical Design of Visual Appearance.

26 Apr 2018

By controlling the interaction of biological building blocks at the nanoscale, natural photonic nanostructures have been optimized to produce intense coloration. Inspired by such biological nanostructures, the possibility to design the visual appearance of a material by guiding the hierarchical self-assembly of its constituent components, ideally using natural materials, is an attractive route for rationally designed, sustainable manufacturing. Within the large variety of biological building blocks, cellulose nanocrystals are one of the most promising biosourced materials, primarily for their abundance, biocompatibility, and ability to readily organize into photonic structures. Here, the mechanisms underlying the formation of iridescent, vividly colored materials from colloidal liquid crystal suspensions of cellulose nanocrystals are reviewed and recent advances in structural control over the hierarchical assembly process are reported as a toolbox for the design of sophisticated optical materials.