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Japanese scientists found a rare crystal that changes color and melts when hit with light

Published May 24th, 2023 3:52PM EDT
rare crystal that melts under light
Image: Komura et al., Chemical Science, 2023

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A group of chemics working with the Osaka University in Japan have identified a rare crystal that melts whenever it is exposed to ultraviolet light. The researchers published their findings in a new paper featured in the journal Chemical Science.

According to the researchers, the crystal undergoes a series of changes in its level of luminescence as it melts, with the structure of the crystal changing at a molecular level. While this is unusual, the researchers say it isn’t the first substance that undergoes this kind of change, which researchers call a photo-induced crystal-to-liquid transition (PCLT).

However, being able to study these kinds of changes in the rare crystal could help researchers better understand the process. They say it may even allow them to open up an entirely new range of potential uses for similar crystals in electronics, photonics, and even drug delivery.

You can see how the crystal changes underneath a fluorescence microscope in the researchers’ video. When the crystal is first exposed to the light, the researchers say that it begins to glow a faint green. However, as that exposure continues, the green turns to yellow and begins to melt slowly.

The researchers say they aren’t exactly sure what drives the melting that they observed in the rare crystal. It’s clear that heat isn’t the trigger, as the light doesn’t cause any temperature rises in the crystal’s material. Instead, the researchers determined that the diketone SO in the crystal was actually switching from one molecular form to another.

They also noticed that similar crystal compounds would melt while others wouldn’t. They also noted that none of the ones that melted seemed to change color in any way. This means that the molecular changes in the rare crystal are different from what we’re seeing in other crystals.

Discovering more about this phenomenon will help researchers better understand how these kinds of transitions work overall. Perhaps we’ll see similar changes in moon crystals when researchers are able to study them more, though it’s unclear exactly what causes the changes or what kind of crystals it might affect.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.