Scientists Create Cotton That Naturally Glows in the Dark

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There are many uses of smart materials today, from a polymer resin that has the ability of self-sealing holes in space to carbon nanotube yarn that can generate its own electricity.

However, all of them have to depend on a superficial coating that is able to turn the old substance into one that is more novel. This is an issue as the more use the less functional they are thanks to natural wear and tear. Researchers, however, are now hopeful that they have solved that issue by making natural glow in the dark cotton.

Plants Will Have Fluorescent Modules In Their Fibres

The researchers think they can build functionality into the building blocks of materials. They have published a paper with a report of natural glow-in-the-dark cotton which they grew in such a way that the plant has fluorescent modules in its fibres.

Filipe Natalio, the lead author of the paper said that fluorescence and magnetic properties have been the proof of their principle and the applications are open. He went on to say that the approaches right now for smart materials use coatings but the approach of the scientists had been the functional molecule weaved together with building blocks such as glucose, into threads that are functional.

Natalio and the rest of the team have done this as the synthesized glucose derivatives and they acted as the molecular glue that connected all the fluorescent molecules with the cell layer of cotton fibres that was outermost. They also used vascular connection when attaching molecules that exchanged magnetism to the cellulose fibers that they were attached to.

Smart Materials May Be Able To Store Data

Professor Natalio worked on targeted drug delivery along with biometrics at the Weizmann Institute of Science before he went into the production of smart materials. He said that he is extremely excited about the potential for the application of the material, such as turning natural materials into a way of being able to store data. He said that this applies to raw materials such as cotton, which he chose for the experiment thanks to it having economic importance along with being used by humans for a long time. He went on to say that if the scientists are able to make fibers that have tailored properties, they will be able to change the way that society sees natural fibers.

The professor believes that in the future there will be hydroponic greenhouses that are self-sustaining in which scientists will be able to add any functional molecule they choose and add it to the water container of the plant and then sit back and watch as the smart plant grows. He said that once the plant had grown they would be able to go around collecting the fibers, whether they were blue, red, magnetic or fluorescent.

Natalio also said that he thinks the concept of chemically manipulating a biological system, be it bamboo, flax or cotton, would comprise a new era of what could be called material farming and reap an end product for tailored properties. He was quick to point out that what they are doing is not genetic engineering; they are not making rabbits that will glow in the dark.

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