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Changing the World through Creative Research

Flexible biomimetic block copolymer composite for temperature and long-wave infrared sensing

Science Advances (Sci. Adv.)

Natural matters have provided clues to advanced and pragmatic material designs. Implementing their molecular structures or functional moieties to artificial materials can provide blueprints to unprecedented functionalities. Here, we report a flexible biomimetic thermal sensing (BTS) polymer that is designed to emulate the ion transport dynamics of a plant cell wall component, pectin. Utilizing a simple yet versatile synthetic procedure, elastic fragments are inserted into a block copolymer architecture, engineering its mechanical properties such as flexibility and stretchability. The thermal response of our flexible BTS polymer outperforms current state-of-art temperature sensing materials, including vanadium oxide, by up to two orders of magnitude. Thermal sensors fabricated from the composite material exhibit a sensitivity that exceeds 10 mK and operate stably between 15 to 55 ℃, even under repeated mechanical deformations. We exemplify the use of the flexible BTS polymer composite in arrays for spatio-temporal temperature mapping and broadband, long-wave infrared photodetection.

Sci. Adv., 9 (6), eade0423