Touch lights up supercooled material

Published in Chemistry World, 27 May 2015

A ‘supercooled’ material has been discovered by scientists that crystallises at the lightest of touches – even the weight of a biological cell will trigger crystallisation. Once in its crystalline state the material glows under ultraviolet light and might find use as a new type of biosensor or an optical memory.

A material becomes supercooled when it is cooled below its normal melting temperature without solidifying – that is, crystallising. The phenomenon occurs when there is a lack of crystal nuclei to seed widespread crystallisation, and is not particularly rare. Water is easily supercooled, for instance, and exists in that state in certain clouds down to about -40°C, so long as the water is very pure and free of pollutants. […]

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