Yi Liao, associate professor of chemistry, and chemistry Professor J. Clayton Baum have received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate a class of molecules that can reversibly change acid concentrations when irradiated with light.
These molecules, called metastable-state photoacids, allow the control of various chemical, biological and material processes with light. Acting like a chemical switch, applications of metastable-state photoacids include photoconductive, photomechanical, photochromic, antibacterial, and drug releasing materials.
The materials can also be used to develop biosensors, microbial fuel cells, and molecular switches. The behaviors and mechanisms of these photoacids are being studied both experimentally and theoretically.