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Hydroxypropyl cellulose photonic architectures by soft nanoimprinting lithography


As contamination and environmental degradation increase, there is a huge demand for new eco-friendly materials. Despite its use for thousands of years, cellulose and its derivatives have gained renewed interest as favourable alternatives to conventional plastics, due to their abundance and lower environmental impact. Here, we report the fabrication of photonic and plasmonic structures by moulding hydroxypropyl cellulose into submicrometric periodic lattices, using soft lithography. This is an alternative way to achieve structural colour in this material, which is usually obtained by exploiting its chiral nematic phase. Cellulose-based photonic crystals are biocompatible and can be dissolved in water or not depending on the derivative employed. Patterned cellulose membranes exhibit tunable colours and may be used to boost the photoluminescence of a host organic dye. Furthermore, we show how metal coating these cellulose photonic architectures leads to plasmonic crystals with excellent optical properties acting as disposable surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy substrates.

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Fig. 1: Fabrication procedures and water solubility tests of cellulose photonic crystal films.
Fig. 2: HPC photonic crystals.
Fig. 3: HPC plasmonic crystals.
Fig. 4: HPC plasmonic crystal membranes as SERS substrates.


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The authors acknowledge M. Simón and A. Gómez for AFM measurements. The Spanish Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad (MINECO) is gratefully acknowledged for its support through grant no. SEV-2015-0496 in the framework of the Spanish Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence programme and also for its support through grant MAT2016-79053-P. A.M. was funded by a Ramón y Cajal fellowship (RYC-2014-16444). This project has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 637116, ENLIGHTMENT).

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Authors and Affiliations



A.E. and C.D. developed the concept, fabricated and characterized the samples. C.M. provided patterned PDMS moulds. A.R.G. and M.I.A. carried out photoluminescence and Raman measurements. A.E and A.M. wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to fruitful discussions and corrected the manuscript. A.M. supervised the research.

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Correspondence to Agustín Mihi.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Additional information including a comparison of replica moulding and hot embossing fabrication methods, scanning electron microscopy images, micro-Raman experiments and electric field simulations.

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Espinha, A., Dore, C., Matricardi, C. et al. Hydroxypropyl cellulose photonic architectures by soft nanoimprinting lithography. Nature Photon 12, 343–348 (2018).

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