Scientists and researchers from the University of Surrey and the University of Sussex have synthesized a new photonic crystal that changes color and is flexible. Its properties make it similar to opal, which is a gemstone. The intriguing factor is that this new material is the most efficient in giving warnings before an earthquake might occur. The material is also being considered as a top candidate for being used to make smart sensing visual applications related to health care and food as they are fairly sensitive to light, temperature, and other stimuli or strain (physical or chemical). The material is green in color when exposed to natural light; however, it turns blue on being flexed or bent and transparent on being exposed to heat.
Alan Dalton, Professor of Experimental Physics, University of Sussex’s School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, commenting on the material said, “Our research here has taken inspiration from the amazing biomimicry abilities in butterfly wings, peacock feathers and beetle shells where the color comes from structure and not from pigments. Whereas nature has developed these materials over millions of years, we are slowly catching up in a much shorter period.” The most appealing feature of smart sensors is its broad range of applications. They can be used as time temperature indicators (TTI), owing to their sensitivity, they can be used as tests to check if the packaged food or contents are past their expiry or have been compromised by being exposed to anything. Similarly, the material and sensors will also prove useful in other fields, like bio-sensing, fingerprint analysis, bio-monitoring, and other healthcare-related devices.
There are a lot of factors that are acting as drivers for the adoption of these novel sensors. They are cost-effective, wearable, robust, and efficient, which are all the requirements that the material must meet for being used in any sector.