Light-regulated growth from dynamic swollen substrates for making rough surfaces

Natural organic structures form via a growth mode in which nutrients are absorbed, transported, and integrated. In contrast, synthetic architectures are constructed through fundamentally different methods, such as assembling, molding, cutting, and printing. Here, we report a photoinduced strategy for regulating the localized growth of microstructures from the surface of a swollen dynamic substrate, by coupling photolysis, photopolymerization, and transesterification together. Photolysis is used to generate dissociable ionic groups to enhance the swelling ability that drives nutrient solutions containing polymerizable components into the irradiated region, photopolymerization converts polymerizable components into polymers, and transesterification incorporates newly formed polymers into the original network structure. Such light-regulated growth is spatially controllable and dose-dependent and allows fine modulation of the size, composition, and mechanical properties of the grown structures. We also demonstrate the application of this process in the preparation of microstructures on a surface and the restoration of large-scale surface damage.