The researchers incorporate an additional element in the plastic molecules, a molecular ring called dioxetane. When the plastic is pulled hard enough, the ring breaks open and emits light.
The plastic only gives light as long as it is pulled. As soon as the plastic is completely torn apart, a flash of light is seen because a lot of molecular rings break at the same time.
The research has mainly been driven by fundamental scientific questions. The researchers were looking for possibilities of mechanical forces to unlock new types of chemistry, says Professor Supramolecular Polymer Chemistry prof.dr. Sijbesma.
However, he does see a very suitable application of the invention. The transmitted light makes it possible to very accurately see where, when and how polymers break. In this way the behaviour of polymers can be studied in detail.
Luminous rods are different
The principle is quite different, by the way, from that of the luminous rods that are used at concerts, et cetera. When the rods are bend and broken inside, two liquids mingle, creating a new chemical substance. This material starts to fall apart spontaneously, at the same time transmitting light.
Source: Technische Universiteit Eindhoven
Photo: Bart van Overbeeke