Color-changing products have been mesmerizing consumers for years. When did you receive your first mood-ring or hologram trading card? While holograms reflect light to reveal different colors and images, mood-rings change hues based on a person’s body heat. Now, a new color-changing product is in the works but it does not rely on light or body heat in order to change. Instead, it changes based on touch.
Scientists at the University of California have found that when gold nanoparticles are strung together, the collective color is blue. Then, when these strands break apart, they continue to change colors into purple and red. The final color is determined on how much stress is put on the gold. If it is lightly touched, it will change to purple; when it is completely broken apart it turns red.
As of right now, there is much excitement about using these gold nanoparticles in paint, tape or bandages so that color-changing properties can be used to indicate how much stress has been applied to a particular area. The inventors envision this being used in products like vehicle crash-test dummies, performance sports equipment (such as baseball bats) and beds. When used in these capacities, the color-changing product may indicate where the greatest amount of impact is concentrated.
While a number of comments on The Atlantic Magazine article suggest the color-changing properties of gold is not a new phenomenon, the technology to make it marketable might be. Because the concentration of gold is low, this could become an affordable, household product. However, scientists are also looking at the less expensive alternative silver as a possible composite. Like gold, when silver is broken down it changes colors but because it lets more light in, the nanoparticles will change from blue to green to yellow.
This new discovery may be available to the public soon. Right now, a patent is pending for the University of California scientists. Before long, gold nanoparticles may be in our tape, paint and bandages – and for good reason too. It will be help us indicate where impact has been made by changing its color with a simple touch.
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