Guard Cell-Inspired Ion Channels: Harnessing the Photomechanical Effect via Supramolecular Assembly of Cross-Linked Azobenzene/Polymers

Yi Fan Chen, Chia Ling Hsieh, Pei Yu Lin, Yu Chun Liu, Min Jie Lee, Lin Ruei Lee, Sheng Zheng, Yu Liang Lin, Yen Lin Huang, Jiun Tai Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Stimuli-responsive ion nanochannels have attracted considerable attention in various fields because of their remote controllability of ionic transportation. For photoresponsive ion nanochannels, however, achieving precise regulation of ion conductivity is still challenging, primarily due to the difficulty of programmable structural changes in confined environments. Moreover, the relationship between noncontact photo-stimulation in nanoscale and light-induced ion conductivity has not been well understood. In this work, a versatile design for fabricating guard cell-inspired photoswitchable ion channels is presented by infiltrating azobenzene-cross-linked polymer (AAZO-PDAC) into nanoporous anodic aluminum oxide (AAO) membranes. The azobenzene-cross-linked polymer is formed by azobenzene chromophore (AAZO)-cross-linked poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDAC) with electrostatic interactions. Under UV irradiation, the trans-AAZO isomerizes to the cis-AAZO, causing the volume compression of the polymer network, whereas, in darkness, the cis-AAZO reverts to the trans-AAZO, leading to the recovery of the structure. Consequently, the resultant nanopore sizes can be manipulated by the photomechanical effect of the AAZO-PDAC polymers. By adding ionic liquids, the ion conductivity of the light-driven ion nanochannels can be controlled with good repeatability and fast responses (within seconds) in multiple cycles. The ion channels have promising potential in the applications of biomimetic materials, sensors, and biomedical sciences.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • anodic aluminium oxide
  • azobenzene
  • guard cells
  • ion conductivity
  • photoswitchable


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