Light-controlled patterning of structural colour.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Chemistry


Nature provides a wealth of examples of intense coloration produced by hierarchical nanoscale structures formed from biological building blocks. Taking inspiration from these natural photonic structures, the propsect of designing the optical appearance of a material by guided self-assembly of biopolymers is an exciting research pathway towards low-cost, sustainable manufacture of iridescence. This PhD project aims to demonstrate patterning of structural colour by photo-control of the self-assembly of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) inpresence of azobenzene photosurfactants (AzoPS). In the presence of UV light, azoPS undergoes isomerisation with an associated change in molecular shape and interfacial adsorption behaviour. This effect will be harnessed to tune the arrangement and coloration of CNC films and droplets.

Planned Impact

Our main impacts will be:
- a new generation of interdisciplinary nano researchers with expertise across science and innovation
- development of new nanotechnologies, and their translation into companies
- strategic developments in four key areas: Energy Materials, Sustainable NanoMaterials, Nano-Bio Technologies, and NanoElectronics/Photonics
- a paradigm change of collaborative outlook
- a strong interaction with stakeholders including outreach for the public, and a platform of industrial partners
- improved use of interdisciplinary working tools including management, discipline bridging and IT

Economic impact of the new CDT is focused through our industrial engagement programme, as well as our innovation training. Our partner companies include Nokia, Unilever, Dyson, BP, Hitachi, IBM, Microsoft, Sharp, Toshiba, Sumitomo, Nanoco, Renishaw, Aixtron, Thales, De La Rue, TWI, and local nano-SMEs including Cambridge Display Technology, Plastic Logic, Eight19, Base4, Sphere Fluidics, Mesophotonics, Cavendish Kinetics, Owlstone, and CCMOS. Such partnerships are crucial for the UK to revive high value manufacturing as the key pillar to lead for future technologies. To develop this strategy we link to the Manufacturing Catapult centre (CPI) and the new Cambridge Centre for Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics.

Training impact emerges through not just the vast array of Nano techniques and ideas that our cohorts and associated students are exposed to, but also the interdisciplinary experience that accrues to all the academics. In particular the younger researchers coming into the University are plugged into a thriving programme that connects their work to many other sciences, applications, and societal challenges. Interactions with external partners, including companies, are also strong and our intern programme will greatly strengthen training outcomes.

Academic impact is fostered by ensuring strong coherent plans for research in the early years, and also the strong focus of the whole CDT on nanoassembly of functional nanomaterials and nanodevices. Our themed areas provide a strong goal-based rationale for the research directions, and also ensure high impact research will emerge. Our track record is already strong (even though our first students have not yet finished), including 1 Nature Chem., 1 Nature Mat., 4 ACS Nano, 2 Adv.Mat., 2 Ang.Chem., 5 Appl.Phys.Letts., 1 Chem.Comm., 2 JACS, 2 Nano Lett., as well as others, plus 5 patents in process. Our cohorts have given 32 talks at international conferences, and many posters. As well as our new patents, the CDT students have already directly spun-off one company (CamIn) and several more are being discussed.

Societal impacts arise from both the progression of our cohorts into their careers as well as their interaction with the media, public, and sponsors. We have a strong careers programme and industrial + academic breadth ensure researchers are well aware of their options, and constantly discussing with their peers. Our efforts to bring societal challenges to students' awareness frames their view of what a successful career looks like. We directly encouraged a wide variety of engagement, including interaction with >5000 members of the public each year (mostly pre-university) through Nano exhibits during public events such as the Cambridge Science Festival. We also run several public policy workshops, and will further develop this aspect through the Cambridge Centre for Science Policy. Longer term societal impact comes directly from our engagement with partner companies creating jobs and know-how within the UK.


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Description "Chiral doping of silica colloidal liquid crystals " 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The colloids made by the Fischer group are used to modify the self-assembly behaviour of fluorescent silica rods, imaged using confocal microscopy in the Vignolini group
Collaborator Contribution The Fischer group produce helical colloids by glancing-angle vapour deposition. T
Impact Multi-disciplinary collaboration between soft matter physics and materials chemistry groups
Start Year 2018
Description Cambridge Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Department of Chemistry Open Day
Outreach activities showcasing our work on structural colour (e.g. boxes of chiral beetles, polarising filters)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019