Colored and color-changing materials are central to perception and interaction in nature and have been exploited in an array of modern technologies such as sensors, visual displays, and smart materials. Attempts to introduce color into carbon fiber materials have been limited by deleterious impacts on fiber properties, and the extension of colored fibers toward “smart composites” remains in its infancy. We present carbon fibers incorporating structural color, similar to that observed on the surface of soap bubbles and various insects and birds, by modifying the fiber surface through in situ polymerization grafting. When dry, the treated fibers exhibit a striking blue color, but when exposed to a volatile solvent, a cascade of colors across the visible light region is observed as the film first swells and then shrinks as the solvent evaporates. The treated fibers not only possess a unique color and color-changing ability but also can be reversibly formed into complex shapes and bear significant loads even without being encased in a supporting polymer. The tensile strength of treated fibers shows a statistically significant increase (+12%), and evaluation of the fiber-to-matrix adhesion of these polymers to an epoxy resin shows more than 300% improvement over control fibers. This approach creates a new platform for the multifaceted advance of smart composites.
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2019, 11, 44, 41617–41625
Publication Date:October 11, 2019