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Smart Cellulose Photonic Materials

A collaboration between the Nanomanufacturing group (IfM) and Bio-inspired Photonics group (Melville Lab) sees Charlie working towards the production and application of biocompatible photonic materials.


Charlie Barty-King


Dr Michael De Volder

Project overview

Charlie is developing a cellulose-derived material that displays vibrant structural-colouration and iridescence when dissolved in various solvents. Structural colour gives colour that is independant of any dyes or pigments, meaning the colour is inherent to the materials nanostructure. The nanostructure can be controlled by altering it’s environment, visually observed by a change in colour. For example, by altering the applied stress, temperature or constituents components you observe a corresponding colour change. This dynamic colour response allows considerable capacity for sensing applications and easy integration with camera systems for automated detection.

Initially Charlie will be working towards proving the feasibility of a non-electronic display for use in soft robotics. This will provide him a microfluidic device to characterise the resolution and cycling performance of any developed photonic material he might produce. Throughout the PhD he aims to develop the material, prove it’s potential for applications in various fields, ensure it is fully scalable/industrially applicable and is free from any toxic/hazardous constituent materials or processes. 

By the end Charlie would like to have produced a photonic fibre for sensing applications and for various use in the textile industry. The vibrancy and structural nature of the materials colours, and it’s iridescent properties and biocompatibility/food-grade, means there is also scope for applications in the fashion, cosmetic and food industries.


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