Surface Stability of Azobenzene-Based Thin Films in Aqueous Environment: Light-Controllable Underwater Blistering

Biagio Audia, Chiara Fedele, Caterina M. Tone, Gabriella Cipparrone, Arri Priimagi

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Azobenzene-based light-responsive thin films are emerging as appealing candidates for smart cell-culture substrates. Their attraction lies in the fact that they can be reversibly photo-patterned, providing a route for dynamically mimicking the remodeling of the extracellular matrix. However, since the cells need to be cultured in aqueous environment, a key parameter in the layout of any biological application is the stability of the surface underwater. In this work, the authors perform a detailed investigation on the surface stability of azobenzene-based thin films in water and in a biologically relevant aqueous medium in which surface blistering occurs, as a result of water–material interaction. The phenomenon arises due to film delamination, and it can be prevented by changing the underlying substrate, by an additional coating layer, or by photo-induced control over the film permeability. It is also shown that the blister orientation can be controlled with polarized light. Furthermore, a simple model based on osmotic pressure is proposed to explain the blister formation. These findings provide a comprehensive overview of the interaction between water and the photo-responsive film surface, pertinent for engineering biomaterials with enhanced dynamic control over the cell–material interface.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2102125
Number of pages11
JournalAdvanced Materials Interfaces
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • azobenzene
  • surface blistering
  • surface patterning
  • photo-responsive materials

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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