Construction of an Array of Photonic Crystal Films for Visual Differentiation of Water/Ethanol Mixtures

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19991-19999
Journal / PublicationACS Omega
Issue number22
Online published14 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes



A photonic crystal film (PCF) which consists of a porous layered structure with a highly ordered periodic arrangement of nanopores has been used to differentiate between various mixtures of water and ethanol (EtOH). The refractive index difference between the wall (silica) of the empty nanopore and air which occupies it results in the structural color of the PCF. This color disappears when the nanopores are infiltrated by a liquid with a similar refractive index to silica (or silicon dioxide). The disappearance of the structural color provides a means to construct a colorimetric sensor to differentiate between various water/EtOH mixtures based on their wettability of the nanopores in the PCF. In this study, an array of silica-based PCFs was synthesized on a silicon substrate with a precise control of nanopore properties using the co-assembly/sedimentation method. Using this method, we benefitted from having different PCFs on a single substrate. Chemical coatings, neck angles, and film thicknesses on each PCF were the three factors used to adjust the wettability of the pores. Nanopore wetting by water/EtOH mixtures was studied in a systematic manner based on the three factors, and the findings were used to develop a sensor for visual differentiation of various water/EtOH mixtures. The final developed sensor consisting of an array of six PCFs was able to differentiate between seven different water/EtOH mixtures: W10, W20, W30, W40, W50, W60, and W70, in which W10 means 10% of water in EtOH.

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