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Gels With Tunable Light Emission Could Act as Advanced Sensors

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 05:29AM

Nature still has many tricks we can learn from. One more example of this comes from MIT where researchers are applying knowledge concerning the crosslinking seen in the threads used by mussels to anchor themselves to rocks. These bonds are used elsewhere in Nature, but can also be used to create a material that will change color based on its environment.

The material is a combination of rare-earth metals with the widely used polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG). This material can have its light emission tuned to produce a variety of colors, and even multiple colors resulting in white light. The crosslinking though is very sensitive to external parameters, so when something in the environment changes, the bonds and thus the color emission will change. The material could be designed such that pollutants, toxins, pathogens, mechanical pressures, and more will cause the color emission to immediately change, alerting people.

Increasing this material's potential is that it can be made into a gel, thin film, or a coating for application on structures. It also helps that the hydrogel scaffold used in this research is also commonly used in biological and polymer physics studies, so it is already well understood by many.

Source: MIT

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