Monday, 14 March 2016

New Molecules in TV screens, that detect bacteria, explosives and track cancer cells

by Zita Edwards

Recent advances in science have focused on the applications of fluorescent molecules to in OLED screens and as a non-invasive method of tracking cancer cells in patients. Fluorescent molecules release energy in the form of light and are small enough to travel through the bloodstream of a patient or in a thin TV screen. However, an issue arises when the molecules all gather in one area and they begin to block out the light emitted by each other, rendering the whole technology obsolete.
Dr. Ben Zhong Tang, at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has discovered a kind of fluorescent molecule that shines brighter and for longer the slower the molecules are moving, thus, solving the problem of multiple molecules cancelling out the effect of each other. Dr Tang discovered a powder that illuminated until dissolved in water. The reason behind this, is that when the molecules are spaced out in a solution they have enough space to release their energy as heat but when brought closer together as a solid the molecules are forced to release energy as light. Scientists have named this process aggregation-induced emission and have tested the use of ethanol and water as solvents. Tang tested out this theory by further adding thicker substances to a solution of the new molecule, applying pressure to the solution, freezing the solution and manipulating the molecules by locking them in place; all of which produced a material that shone brighter and for longer.
Scientists’ next step is to introduce aggregation-induced emission to other types of molecules such as carbon-based molecules. Scientists believe that there are many more opportunities for innovation in this field of technology although concerns have been raised as to the commercial viability of these methods as current fluorescent materials are so popular. By attaching these new fluorescent molecules to other materials the possibilities to its applications are endless with the molecules already being used in detecting heavy metals, explosives, harmful bacteria, biological applications and advances in the manufacture of OLED TVs.

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