Role of supramolecular polymers in photo-actuation of spiropyran hydrogels

Chuang Li, Qinsi Xiong, Tristan D. Clemons, Hiroaki Sai, Yang Yang, M. Hussain Sangji, Aysenur Iscen, Liam C. Palmer, George C. Schatz, Samuel I. Stupp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Supramolecular-covalent hybrid polymers have been shown to be interesting systems to generate robotic functions in soft materials in response to external stimuli. In recent work supramolecular components were found to enhance the speed of reversible bending deformations and locomotion when exposed to light. The role of morphology in the supramolecular phases integrated into these hybrid materials remains unclear. We report here on supramolecular-covalent hybrid materials that incorporate either high-aspect-ratio peptide amphiphile (PA) ribbons and fibers, or low-aspect-ratio spherical peptide amphiphile micelles into photo-active spiropyran polymeric matrices. We found that the high-aspect-ratio morphologies not only play a significant role in providing mechanical reinforcement to the matrix but also enhance photo-actuation for both light driven volumetric contraction and expansion of spiropyran hydrogels. Molecular dynamics simulations indicate that water within the high-aspect-ratio supramolecular polymers exhibits a faster draining rate as compared to those in spherical micelles, which suggests that the high-aspect-ratio supramolecular polymers effectively facilitate the transport of trapped water molecules by functioning as channels and therefore enhancing actuation of the hybrid system. Our simulations provide a useful strategy for the design of new functional hybrid architectures and materials with the aim of accelerating response and enhancing actuation by facilitating water diffusion at the nanoscopic level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6095-6104
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Science
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2023
Externally publishedYes


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