Chemistry in Pictures: Magic mushroom

Despite appearances, no actual magic or mushrooms are involved in this video. The vial contains a spiropyran compound dissolved in toluene. The compound starts off colorless, but when hit by ultraviolet light, it isomerizes, forming a merocyanine that is bright blue in color (visible light or heat can switch the molecule back to its colorless form). When the UV light is shined up from the bottom of the vial for a couple of seconds and then switched off, the merocyanine molecules in solution drift upwards and outwards in a distinctly mushroom-like plume. The shape probably arises because of local heating and convection within the vial, according to Alexander Shokurov, who recorded the video.Shokurov is a postdoctoral researcher in the Biomedical and Mobile Health Technology Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich. His research focuses on developing materials that change their properties in response to light. The goal is to incorporate these materials into sensors for health applications.

Submitted by Alexander Shokurov


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