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Chemists solve a 150-year-old mystery; create the brightest material ever

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Research in the past has found ways to keep these mischievous dyes separate from each other, but not without adding artificial colors to the solid and compromising the overall photonic qualities of the fluorescent dye.

The word fluorescent might bring to mind the harsh, overhead lighting of your high school at worst, or cool, glowing oceans at best, but these types of brightly glowing materials actually play an important role in everything from to solar technology.

But despite their wide-applications, these materials have faced a 150-year-old struggle when it comes to transferring their properties from a liquid solution to a solid. This has limited fluorescents’ overall use.

The finding, published Thursday in the journal Chem, focuses on solving a familiar and resilient problem facing fluorescents called “quenching.” Essentially, when multiple dyes are combined together to form a solid, they can’t help but interact with each other, which lowers their fluorescence.

, a chemist at Indiana University and co-senior author, that this process can be compared to the way children behave when sat together and told to be quiet or still.

“The problem of quenching and inter-dye coupling emerges when the dyes stand shoulder-to-shoulder inside solids,” says Flood. “They cannot help but ‘touch’ each other. Like young children sitting at storytime, they interfere with each other and stop behaving as individuals.”

Research in the past has found ways to keep these mischievous dyes separate from each other, but not without adding artificial colors to the solid and compromising the overall photonic qualities of the fluorescent dye. Flood and his colleagues write that their approach is unique because it uses a colorless molecule to keep these dyes separate, maintaining their fidelity

In turn, this process could give new life to over 100,000 dyes for applications in biomedical imaging, solar energy, and more, the study suggests.

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