Polymer nanocomposites are employed in (micro)electronic, biomedical, structural and optical applications. Their fabrication is challenging due to nanoparticle (filler) agglomeration and settling, increased viscosity of blended solutions and multiple tedious processing steps, just to name a few. Often this leads to an upper limit for filler content, requirements for filler–polymer interfacial chemistry and expensive manufacturing. As a result, novel but simple processes for nanocomposite manufacture that overcome such hurdles are needed. Here, a truly single-step procedure for synthesis of polymer nanocomposite films, structures and patterns at high loadings of nanoparticles (for example, >24 vol %) for a variety of compositions is presented. It is highly versatile with respect to rapid preparation of films possessing multiple layers and filler content gradients even on untreated challenging substrates (paper, glass, polymers). Such composites containing homogeneously dispersed nanoparticles even at high loadings can improve the mechanical strength of hydrogels, load-bearing ability of fragile microstructures, gas permeability in thin barriers, performance of dielectrics and device integration in stretchable electronics.
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