Photonic Cellulose Nanocrystal Sensor Revolutionizes Biomedical Monitoring

Highly Elastic Hydrogels

Highly elastic hydrogels constructed by heat-induced hydrogen bond remodeling can switch between wet and dry states Credit: Fusheng Zhang and Qiongya Li

Researchers develop an insoluble CNC hydrogel with high sensitivity to calcium ions, paving the way for sustainable cellulose sensors in wearable devices and biomedicine.

Cellulose nanocrystal (CNC), an emerging bio-based material, has been widely applied in fields like electronics, bioplastics, and energy.

However, functional failure of such materials in wet or liquid environments inevitably impairs their development in biomedicine, membrane separation, environmental monitoring, and wearable devices.

Now, a research group led by Prof. Guangyan Qing from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences reported a sustainable, insoluble, and chiral photonic cellulose nanocrystal patch for calcium ion (Ca2+) sensing in sweat.

The study, published recently in the journal Small, provides a new idea for the functionalization of CNC.

The researchers developed a simple and efficient method to fabricate insoluble CNC-based hydrogels. They found that by utilizing intermolecular hydrogen bond reconstruction, thermal dehydration enabled the optimized CNC composite photonic film to form a stable hydrogel network in an aqueous solution. Moreover, they indicated that the hydrogel could be reversibly switched between dry and wet states, which was convenient for specific functionalization.

The introduction of functionalized molecules by adsorption swelling in a liquid environment resulted in a hydrogel with freeze resistance (–20°C), strong adhesion, good biocompatibility, and high sensitivity to Ca2+.

“This work is expected to facilitate the application of sustainable cellulose sensors to monitor other metabolites (i.e., glucose, urea, and vitamins, etc.),” said Prof. Qing. “It also lays the foundation for digitally controlled hydrogel systems operating in environment monitoring, membrane separation, and wearable devices.”

Reference: “Sustainable, Insoluble, and Photonic Cellulose Nanocrystal Patches for Calcium Ion Sensing in Sweat” by Qiongya Li, Chenchen He, Cunli Wang, Yuxiao Huang, Jiaqi Yu, Chunbo Wang, Wei Li, Xin Zhang, Fusheng Zhang and Guangyan Qing, 13 April 2023, Small.
DOI: 10.1002/smll.202207932

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