Color changing photonic crystals detect blast exposure

D. Kacy Cullen, Yongan Xu, Dexter V. Reneer, Kevin D. Browne, James W. Geddes, Shu Yang, Douglas H. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Blast-induced traumatic brain injury (bTBI) is the "signature wound" of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, with no objective information of relative blast exposure, warfighters with bTBI may not receive appropriate medical care and are at risk of being returned to the battlefield. Accordingly, we have created a colorimetric blast injury dosimeter (BID) that exploits material failure of photonic crystals to detect blast exposure. Appearing like a colored sticker, the BID is fabricated in photosensitive polymers via multi-beam interference lithography. Although very stable in the presence of heat, cold or physical impact, sculpted micro- and nano-structures of the BID are physically altered in a precise manner by blast exposure, resulting in color changes that correspond with blast intensity. This approach offers a lightweight, power-free sensor that can be readily interpreted by the naked eye. Importantly, with future refinement this technology may be deployed to identify soldiers exposed to blast at levels suggested to be supra-threshold for non-impact blast-induced mild TBI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S37-S44
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the Nanotechnology Institute Proof-of-Concept (PoC) Fund , the Office of Naval Research (ONR) (grant # N00014-05-0303 ), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) (grant # FA9550-06-1-0228 ), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (grant # NS038104 , # NS048949 , and # NS043126 ). The funding sources had no involvement in any aspects of this work or the decision to publish.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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