Researchers at Queensland University of Technology have discovered new ways to use energy from light to trigger chemical reactions.
Using green light, they’ve designed a catalyst-free process to join molecules to create safer products and procedures that are commonly used in medicine and manufacturing.
By varying the pH levels, they’re able to switch the reaction on and off.
The process has produced a range of hydrogels with various properties, some of which are used to make contact lenses.
The process could also be used to attach cancer drugs to molecules found in diseased cells to deliver targeted, personalised treatment to patients.
The university’s Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik says there are huge advantages to using green light, rather than harsh UV light to activate chemical reactions.
“In the past, most of these types of photochemical reactions were triggered by harsh UV (ultra-violet) light. But that prevents applications in a biological context because UV light has so much energy it kills cells.”
Professor Barner-Kowollik said the fact that the new process doesn’t need a catalyst or helper molecule is also hugely significant for medical applications.
“In many cases helper molecules contain metal, and you don’t want something that could leach out, or something that is found to be cytotoxic or carcinogenic,” he said.
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