• Review Paper: Sol–gel and hybrid materials for optical, photonic and optoelectronic applications
  • Published:

Sol–gel engineering to tune structural colours


For several decades, the sol–gel process allows the fabrication of functional materials through the strong coupling between materials chemistry and advanced processing. This branch of material’s science is generally associated with the formation of oxide and hybrid materials obtained through a transition between a sol and a gel. Engineering the sol–gel process to extend same principles to other classes of materials is an emerging and promising research line. These aspects will be illustrated in this article by reviewing the successful case of optical materials with tunable structural colours. It will be shown that sol–gel transition from molecular or colloidal building blocks results in optical materials with great diversity in structure and composition such as oxide, hybrid, or metal–organic frameworks. Applicative examples will be provided including photocatalytic, “invisible” and anti-reflective coatings, graded photonic mirrors and 2D photonic sensors.


  • After 30 years from D. Ulrich’s pionnering works, most of the key advantages of the sol-gel process are still valid today suppression or appearance of structural colours was obtained by controlling the interplay between intrinsic optical properties of the materials and their structure.

  • Anti-reflective, invisible and photocatalytic coatings, graded Bragg mirros and diffraction gratings can be fabricated through engineering the sol-gel process to conventional and emerging materials.

  • Taking advantage of the versatility of the sol-gel process by extending the composition threshold beyond oxides is an exciting future research line for the field.

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Sorbonne Université, CNRS and Collège de France are acknowledged. MF gratefully acknowledges all the co-authors of the works described in this article. MF acknowledges the funding from the European Research Council under European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme (Grant Agreement no. 803220, TEMPORE).

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Faustini, M. Sol–gel engineering to tune structural colours. J Sol-Gel Sci Technol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10971-020-05319-7

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  • Sol–gel
  • MOFs
  • Anti-reflection
  • Crack self-assembly
  • Diffraction gratings