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"The luminescent arms of our molecules function like light bulbs that light up or turn off depending on the presence of a positively charged ion, a metal cation," explains Jérôme Lacour, Dean of the Faculty of Science at UNIGE and Ordinary Professor in the Department of Organic Chemistry. These molecules can be compared to small locks: when they are ready to operate and detect the presence of metals, they emit a particular type of light (circularly polarized). When a metal ion is inserted, it acts on them like a key, the lock geometry changes and the light disappears.
These "locks" are made up of two parts: a ring (a crown ether) that can encircle metal ions such as sodium, and two twisted arms that extend from the rim and act like light bulbs, allowing researchers to "see" whether metal ions are present or not. In the absence of metal ions, the two arms are close together and emit intense polarized luminescence....
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