Scientists have developed a new flexible sweat sensor

Under the initiative of low-carbon circular economy, cellulose nanocrystals have been rapidly developed as a bio-based material and are widely used in electronics, bioplastics, energy and other fields, which is expected to accelerate the sustainable development of various fields. Recently, the team of Qing Guangyan, a researcher at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, designed and prepared a sustainable, insoluble and chiral photonic-cellulose nanocrystal patch for calcium ion sensing in sweat. This study provides a new idea for the functionalization of cellulose nanocrystals. The results were published in the materials journal Small.

Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) can spontaneously organize to form chiral nematic liquid crystal structures and produce brilliant photonic structural colors, which are important for the development of sustainable optics and optical sensing. However, such materials fail to function in wet or liquid environments, inevitably compromising their development in biomedical, membrane separation, environmental monitoring, and wearable devices. Therefore, it is very important to make CNC stable in liquid environment through simple and effective means to achieve functional applications.

Photo courtesy of Dalian Chemical Properties

In this work, the team developed a simple and effective method for fabricating insoluble CNC-based hydrogels. The researchers used intermolecular hydrogen bond reconstitution and thermal dehydration to enable the optimized CNC composite photonic membrane to form a stable hydrogel network in aqueous solution. It was found that the hydrogel can be reversed between dry and wet states, which is convenient for specific functionalization.

Subsequently, the team introduced functionalized molecules by adsorbing swelling in a liquid environment to obtain hydrogels with frost resistance, strong adhesion, good biocompatibility, high sensitivity to Ca2+ and high selectivity.

This work is expected to facilitate the application of monitoring other metabolites with sustainable cellulose sensors and lay the foundation for CNC hydrogel systems operating in environmental monitoring, membrane separation, and wearable devices. (Source: Sun Danning, China Science News)

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