A promising fabrication route to produce absorbing flexible photonic crystals is presented, which exploits self-assembly during the shear processing of multi-shelled polymer spheres. When absorbing material is incorporated in the interstitial space surrounding high-refractive-index spheres, a dramatic enhancement in the transmission edge on the short-wavelength side of the band gap is observed. This effect originates from the shifting optical field spatial distribution as the incident wavelength is tuned around the band gap, and results in a contrast up to 100 times better than similar but nonabsorbing photonic crystals. An order-of-magnitude improvement in strain sensitivity is shown, suggesting the use of these thin films in photonic sensors
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