Research database

HYDROLIGHT - Reversible 3D light-structuring of stimuli-responsive hydrogel networks for biophotonic applications

24 months (2017 - 2019)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
Corporate-funded and donor-funded research
Funding body:
FONDAZIONE (Compagnia di San Paolo)
Project identification number:
Metti in rete la tua idea di ricerca


In HYDROLIGHT new technologies for a light-driven, reversible and dynamic micro-patterning of functional polymeric materials are explored, with applications relevant in life science, such as smart substrates for cell growth. We focus on polymers exhibiting light responsivity upon laser irradiation, thanks to the presence of azobenzene units, which are known to show mass-migration driven by radiation. In order to address the ambitious and still unreached goal of controlling mass transport in volume in a stable and reversible manner, new azo-compounds will be investigated. A possible approach relies on soft hydrogels materials composed by azopolymers forming host-guest complexes with ?-cyclodextrine (?-CD) terminated polymeric chain. The mass-migration is controlled through a light-switchable, reversible crosslink (based on the isomerization of the azobenzene) between polymeric chains, allowing an azobenzene-?-CD complex formation. Holographic methods based on programmable Spatial Light Modulators are used to produce 3D light patterns, in such a way that the morphological modifications induced within the hydrogel can dynamically and reversibly conform to the desired light pattern projected. Provided biocompatibility, these stimuli-responsive materials are employed as 3D cell substrates, wherein living cells are seeded. Furthermore, light patterns are produced at visible wavelengths (larger than 530 nm) in such a way that cells seeded into the AzoGel substrate are not severely harmed upon irradiation. A controlled photo-mechanical conditioning of the cell culture will be then performed during the cell growth, by using a dynamic holographic irradiation of the material. The true scientific breakthrough results in the non-invasive dynamic control of the 3D morphology of soft polymers under structured illumination.

People involved





PoliTo total cost: € 150,000.00
PoliTo contribution: € 150,000.00