Fast-acting, color-changing molecular probe senses when a material is about to fail

Science Daily  March 25, 2021
A team of researchers at the University of Illinois have improved their previously developed mechanophores (force-sensitive molecules) where the molecules were slow to react and return to their original state. The new mechanophores, they developed produced reversible, rapid, and vibrant color change when a force was applied. The color change is the result of stress applied to the bonds that connect the mechanophores to a polymer chain. In the current work they are bonding the mechanophores to polymer chains using a different arrangement scheme, called an oxazine structure. The new structure allows for an instantaneous and reversible color change when the force is applied and disappears when the force is removed. The work opens the door to detailed insight into the molecular level changes in materials. It could be used as stress sensors to enable researchers to study the effects of stress on materials before they fail, better monitor, quickly detect and respond rapidly to an overstressed structure in the lab and eventually in the field…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE 

Graphical abstract. Credit: Chem March 11, 2021. 

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