Nanocomposites are constructed from a matrix material combined with dispersed nanosized filler particles. Such a combination yields a powerful ability to tailor the desired mechanical, optical, electrical, thermodynamic, and antimicrobial material properties. Colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals (SCNCs) are exciting potential fillers, as they display size-, shape-, and composition-controlled properties and are easily embedded in diverse matrices. Here we present their role as quantum photoinitiators (QPIs) in acrylate-based polymer, where they act as a catalytic radical initiator and endow the system with mechanical, photocatalytic, and antimicrobial properties. By utilizing ZnO nanorods (NRs) as QPIs, we were able to increase the tensile strength and elongation at break of poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels by up to 85%, unlike the use of the same ZnO NRs acting merely as fillers. Simultaneously, we endowed the PEGDA hydrogels with post-polymerization photocatalytic and antimicrobial activities and showed their ability to decompose methylene blue and significantly eradicate antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viral pathogens. Moreover, we demonstrate two fabrication showcase methods, traditional molding and digital light processing printing, that can yield hydrogels with complex architectures. These results position SCNC-based systems as promising candidates to act as all-in-one photoinitiators and fillers in nanocomposites for diverse biomedical applications, where specific and purpose-oriented characteristics are required.
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- 3D printing