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Responsive temperature nanomaterials to warn against temperature fluctuations

A group of scientists from ICN2, CSIC and BIST has developed high-temperature "off/on" fluorescent sensors based on polymeric nanoparticles. They allow to follow the thermal history of a process or material in a simple, cheap and scalable way.

Exceeding unwanted temperatures can be a problem sometimes, such as in industrial processes, overheating of electronic equipment, or when it is necessary to keep the cold chain of perishable products like food, drugs or vaccines, among others.

A team of scientists from the Institut Català de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ICN2), the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), led by Daniel Ruiz-Molina (CSIC) and Claudio Roscini (ICN2), has developed, in collaboration with the research group led by Katharina Landfester (Max Planck Institute), a new method to record these fluctuations. Both Daniel Ruiz-Molina and Claudio Roscini are members of the research group Nanosfun. The method is based on an intelligent fluorescent nanomaterial which is temperature-responsive.

In this method, polymeric nanoparticles encapsulate a fluorescent compound (Rhodamine B) and dodecanoic acid. The nanoparticles are made of a thermoplastic polymer. When a certain temperature is exceeded, the nanoparticles undergo a structural change and become fluorescent. The change is fast, abrupt  and irreversible, and fluorescence change can be seen with the naked eye.

The interesting thing about this  idea, for future applications, is that the temperature threshold above which the fluorescence is activated can be finely tuned, from temperatures close from 20 degrees to 200 degrees C.

The change is irreversible, which means that even if the temperature stabilizes, the nanoparticles would remain fluorescent, acting as a permanent sensor regardless of the time elapsed. This enables tracing the thermal history of a process or a material in a simple, cheap and scalable way.

The work, a proof of concept, has been published in the Advanced Functional Materials journal. The results demonstrate the versatility of these materials and the strategy as a temperature indicator as well as for other applications in which high temperature monitoring is required.

Video: https://youtu.be/aR01gGshh7M



Isabel Gavilanes-Pérez
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