Chemical tracking of temperature by concurrent periodic precipitation pattern formation in polyacrylamide gels
In nature, nonequilibrium systems reflect environmental changes, and these changes are often “recorded” in their solid body as they develop. Periodic precipitation patterns, aka Liesegang patterns (LPs), are visual sums of complex events in nonequilibrium reaction–diffusion processes. Here we aim to achieve an artificial system that “records” the temperature changes in the environment with the concurrent LP formation. We first illustrate the differences in 1-D LPs developing at different temperatures in terms of band spacings, which can demonstrate the time, ramp steepness, and extent of a temperature change. These results are discussed and augmented by a mathematical model. Using scanning electron microscopy, we show that the average size of the CuCrO4 precipitate also reflects the temperature changes. Finally, we show that these changes can also be “recorded” in the 2-D and 3-D LPs, which can have applications in long-term temperature tracking and complex soft material design.