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 that emits light when pulled.
The plastic only gives light as long as it is pulled. When 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 of Supramolecular Polymer Chemistry Rint 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 collapse 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 these rods are bend and broken inside, two liquids mix, creating a new chemical substance. This material starts to fall apart spontaneously, at the same time emitting light.