Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Gel Changes Color on Demand

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Gel Changes Color on Demand

Article excerpt

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created a new structured gel that can rapidly change color in response to a variety of stimuli, including temperature, pressure, salt concentration, and humidity (see image, p. 22). The new gel could be used as a fast and inexpensive chemical sensor among other applications.

Structured gels feature internal patterns, such as layers. A critical component of the structured gel developed at MIT is a material that expands or contracts when exposed to certain stimuli. Those changes in the thickness of the gel cause it to change color through the entire range of the visible spectrum of light.

Objects that reflect different colors depending on which way you look at them already exist, but once those objects are manufactured, their properties cannot change. The MIT researchers set out to create a material that would change color in response to external stimuli.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"We wanted to develop something that was 'tunable,'" explains Edwin Thomas, head of MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering. …

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