Photo-modulated activation of organic bases enabling microencapsulation and on-demand reactivity

Wenle Li, Xiaocun Lu, Jacob M. Diamond, Chengtian Shen, Bo Jiang, Shi Sun, Jeffrey S. Moore, Nancy R. Sottos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A method is developed for facile encapsulation of reactive organic bases with potential application for autonomous damage detection and self-healing polymers. Highly reactive chemicals such as bases and acids are challenging to encapsulate by traditional oil-water emulsion techniques due to unfavorable physical and chemical interactions. In this work, reactivity of the bases is temporarily masked with photo-removable protecting groups, and the resulting inactive payloads are encapsulated via an in situ emulsion-templated interfacial polymerization method. The encapsulated payloads are then activated to restore the organic bases via photo irradiation, either before or after being released from the core-shell carriers. The efficacy of the photo-activated capsules is demonstrated by a damage-triggered, pH-induced color change in polymeric coatings and by recovery of adhesive strength of a damaged interface. Given the wide range of potential photo-deprotection chemistries, this encapsulation scheme provides a simple but powerful method for storage and targeted delivery of a broad variety of reactive chemicals, promoting design of diverse autonomous functionalities in polymeric materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2771
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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