Before Yujie Tu crystallized this anthracene derivative, it hardly glowed at all. In the closely packed structure of the crystals, the molecules clumped together, locking down squirmy parts of the molecules that would otherwise absorb light and thus prevent fluorescence. Tu studies this phenomenon, called aggregate-induced emission, as part of his PhD work at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Finding organic molecules that glow when they clump together is useful in biological imaging because organic fluorescent molecules are often hydrophobic and tend to form aggregates in the watery environments inside cells.
Submitted by Yujie Tu
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