In a new study published in the journal Chem, researchers have modified crystalline structures to make them stretchy.
Chenfeng Ke, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Dartmouth College, and his research team have designed carbon-based, porous crystals that can stretch to more than double their length.
"Picture a diamond that behaves like a rubber band," said Ke.
Porous organic frameworks are built from light organic elements like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen. They form lattice structures with pores forming in the spaces between atoms, which means they can be used as filters for certain pollutants in fluids that can pass through the structure.
Scientists can chemically alter the structure by adding different molecular crosslinks, and the researchers were able to add what they call "soft joints" to the lattice. The joints are comprised of ions that repel one another but are held in place by the interactions between them and other molecules in the crystal. When the specific chemicals are presented, the ions are repelled, and the crystal expands. When placed in phenol, the crystal swelled to twice its length in less than 20 minutes, returning to its original shape in half the time once the phenol was washed away.
Ke hopes to see the research employed in applications like water filtration, where the crystals can absorb impurities.
You can read more from the study here.
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