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Photonic devices out of equilibrium: transient memory, signal propagation and sensing

Soft photonic materials are important for sensors, displays or energy management and have become switchable under static equilibrium conditions by integration of responsive polymer features. The next step is to equip such materials with the ability for autonomously dynamic and self-regulating behavior, which would advance their functionality and application possibilities to new levels. Here, we show the system integration of a non-linear, biocatalytic pH-feedback system with a pH-responsive block copolymer photonic gel, and demonstrate autonomous transient memories, remotely controlled signal propagation and sensing. We utilize an enzymatic switch to program the lifetime of the reflective state of a photonic gel, and induce propagation of pH-waves extinguishable by illumination with UV-light. The described combination of non-linear chemistry and responsive photonic gels opens pathways towards out-of-equilibrium photonic devices with active and autonomous behavior useful for sensing, computation and communication.

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