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Conformal Coating and Shape-preserving Chemical Conversion of Bio-enabled and Synthetic 3-Dimensional Nanostructures

posted on 16.12.2020, 14:01 by Jiaqi Li

Impressive examples of the generation of hierarchically-patterned, three-dimensional (3-D) structures for the control of light can be found throughout nature. Morpho rhetenor butterflies, for example, possess scales with periodic parallel ridges, each of which consists of a stack of thin (nanoscale) layers (lamellae). The bright blue color of Morpho butterflies has been attributed to controlled scattering of the incident light by the lamellae of the wing scales. Another stunning example is the frustule (microshell) of the Coscinodiscus wailesii diatom, which is capable of focusing red light without possessing a traditional lens morphology. The photonic structures and the optical behaviors of Morpho butterflies and Coscinodiscus wailesii diatoms have been extensively studied. However, no work has been conducted to shift such light manipulation from the visible to the infrared (IR) range via shape-preserving conversion of such biogenic structures. Controlling IR radiation (i.e., heat) utilizing biogenic or biomimetic structures can be of significant utility for the development of energy-harvesting devices. In order to enhance the optical interaction in the IR range, inorganic replicas of biogenic structures comprised of high-refractive-index materials have been generated in this work. Such replicas of Morpho rhetenor scales were fabricated via a combination of sol-gel solution coating, organic pyrolysis, and gas/solid reaction methods. Diatomimetic structures have also been generated via sol-gel coating, gas/solid reaction, and then patterning of pore arrays using focused ion beam (FIB) milling.

Throughout the sol-gel solution coating and chemical conversion steps of the processes developed in this study, attention was paid to preserve the starting shapes of the nanopatterned, microscale biogenic or biomimetic structures. Factors affecting such shape preservation included the thicknesses and uniformities of coatings applied to the biogenic or biomimetic templates, nano/microstructural evolution during thermal treatment, and reaction-induced volume changes. A conformal surface sol-gel (SSG) coating process was developed in this work to generate oxide replicas of Morpho rhetenor butterfly scales with precisely-controlled coating thicknesses. The adsorption kinetics and relevant adsorption isotherm of the SSG process were investigated utilizing a quartz crystal microbalance. Analyses of thermodynamic driving forces, rate-limiting kinetic steps, and volume changes associated with various chemical reactions were used to tailor processing parameters for optimized shape preservation.


US Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences, Award #DE-SC0014034


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Materials Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Kenneth H. Sandhage

Additional Committee Member 2

Kevin P. Trumble

Additional Committee Member 3

Jeffrey P. Youngblood

Additional Committee Member 4

Eric P. Kvam