By Krista Kano, Record-Courier:
Two Kent State professors are on their way to advancing safety measures for first-responders, military personnel and chemical manufacturing workers.
Dr. Torsten Hegmann, associate director of the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute, and Dr. Elda Hegmann, assistant professor of the institute and the Department of Biological Sciences, received a three-year, $330,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their work studying liquid crystal-nanoparticle sensors that detect toxic gases and vapors without the use of electricity.
The sensors, the prototypes for which are about 1-inch squares, appear black until a toxic gas in the air reacts with the surface, revealing a skull and crossbones. Each sensor is specific to a particular toxic gas, such as phosgene, a chemical that shows up in home fires whenever there is an air conditioning unit.
In completing their research, the Hegmanns are using “reverse engineering,” identifying a toxic gas they want to address and then finding a chemical reaction involving that gas that will initiate a realignment of liquid crystal molecules. They are currently working on developing these reactions for five particularly relevant gases.
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