Responsive block copolymer photonics triggered by protein-polyelectrolyte coacervation

Yin Fan, Shengchang Tang, Edwin L. Thomas, Bradley D. Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ionic interactions between proteins and polyelectrolytes are demonstrated as a method to trigger responsive transitions in block copolymer (BCP) photonic gels containing one neutral hydrophobic block and one cationic hydrophilic block. Poly(2-vinylpyridine) (P2VP) blocks in lamellar poly(styrene- b-2-vinylpyridine) block copolymer thin films are quaternized with primary bromides to yield swollen gels that show strong reflectivity peaks in the visible range; exposure to aqueous solutions of various proteins alters the swelling ratios of the quaternized P2VP (QP2VP) gel layers in the PS-QP2VP materials due to the ionic interactions between proteins and the polyelectrolyte. Parameters such as charge density, hydrophobicity, and cross-link density of the QP2VP gel layers as well as the charge and size of the proteins play significant roles on the photonic responses of the BCP gels. Differences in the size and pH-dependent charge of proteins provide a basis for fingerprinting proteins based on their temporal and equilibrium photonic response. The results demonstrate that the BCP gels and their photonic effect provide a robust and visually interpretable method to differentiate different proteins. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11467-11473
Number of pages7
JournalACS Nano
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 25 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Block copolymer
  • Coacervation
  • Photonic gel
  • Polyelectrolytes
  • Proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Responsive block copolymer photonics triggered by protein-polyelectrolyte coacervation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this