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Engineering >> 2023, Volume 23, Issue 4 doi: 10.1016/j.eng.2022.03.021

AIE-Active Freeze-Tolerant Hydrogels Enable Multistage Information Encryption and Decryption at Subzero Temperatures

Department of Biochemical Engineering, School of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Frontier Science Center for Synthetic Biology and Key Laboratory of Systems Bioengineering (MOE), Tianjin University, Tianjin 300350, China

# These authors contributed equally to this work.

Received: 2021-10-09 Revised: 2022-03-01 Accepted: 2022-03-31 Available online: 2023-02-01

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Freeze-tolerant hydrogels can regulate the freezing behavior of the water inside them at subzero temperatures, thus maintaining their exceptional properties (e.g., intelligent responsiveness and liquid transporting) and extending their applications under cold conditions. Herein, a series of aggregation-induced emission (AIE)-active freeze-tolerant hydrogels are developed, which enable information encryption and decryption at subzero temperatures. The hydrogels possess varied freezing temperatures (Tf) depending on their betaine concentration. Above/below Tf, the information in the hydrogels that is encoded by means of AIE luminogens presents turn-off/-on fluorescence, thereby enabling the use of these hydrogels for information encryption and decryption. Moreover, by tuning the cooling procedures or introducing photothermal copper sulfide nanoparticles into the hydrogels via an in situ sulfidation process, together with certain irradiation conditions, multistage information readouts can be obtained, significantly enhancing the information security. Finally, because the decrypted information in the hydrogels is irreversibly sensitive to temperature fluctuation, external energy-free cryogenic anticounterfeiting labels built with the hydrogels are demonstrated, which can realize the visual and real-time viability monitoring of cryopreserved biosamples (e.g., mesenchymal stem cells and red blood cells) during cold-chain transportation (–80 °C).



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