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June 30, 2022

Brightest Fluorescents Ever Made

What do SMILES have to do with fluorescent dyes and how might will they make the images on television screens, hand-held video games, and smartphones more dynamic, even brighter? Researchers are turning fluid fluorescent dyes into solid-state form and making the brightest fluorescents ever made. Learn more on NSF’s “The Discovery Files.”

Credit: National Science Foundation

Brightest Fluorescents Ever Made

This is The Discovery Files, from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Thanks to fluorescent dyes, technology has given us crystal clear television screens, hand-held video games with realistic graphics, and smartphones, with incredibly vivid displays.

But what if this technology could be improved to enhance the user's experience even more? What would happen if the liquid fluorescent dyes were converted into an even brighter form?

Supported in part by NSF, researchers at Indiana University partnered with a team from the University of Copenhagen to create novel materials called SMILES: Small-Molecule, Ionic isolation LatticeS, which are believed to be the brightest fluorescent materials ever made.

SMILES are totally new foundation or base materials that offer remarkable potential for advanced, more efficient solar panels, more accurate solid-state lasers, precise medical imaging, and dynamic 3-d displays.

The source of SMILES powerful, unprecedented illumination is a "molecular glue," causing the molecules in the fluid fluorescent dyes to gather into tightly packed solids, making them glow even brighter.

This research explores a long-standing interest in developing more brilliant fluorescent solids. It has resulted in the creation of the brightest known materials in existence.

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"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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