The phenomenon of color changes in a substance, triggered by volatile organic compound vapors or inorganic gas, is called vapochromism. It is typically used to visibly signify the presence of gas but research on materials that synchronize color and other property changes, such as magnetism, could lead to broader applications.
The research team led by Masako Kato at Hokkaido University focused on developing materials that simultaneously change color and magnetism when exposed to vapors. To date, some iron complexes were known to switch magnetism between “paramagnetism” and “diamagnetism” at room temperature, but usually fall into stable states when temperatures are lower.
The team focused on a nickel(II)-quinonoid complex. “As the complex changes magnetism when its coordination structure changes, we hypothesized that if solvent vapors could bind to nickel ions directly, the complex would simultaneously change color and magnetism,” said Masako Kato, in a statement.
According to their research, a nickel(II)-quinonoid complex was placed in a high-density methanol vapor environment. Once methanol molecules bonded with the complex, the coordination structure was transformed followed by a change in color from deep purple to orange. When exposed to vapors such as ethanol and chloroform, methanol molecules detached from the complex, reversing its color to deep purple. When methanol molecules were removed from the complex, it switched from paramagnetism to diamagnetism, and both states could be maintained under a wide temperature range.
“As the nickel complex reacts differentially to ethanol and methanol, it could be used in the future as a sensor material selective to methanol,”said Kato.
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