Visual Color-Changing Sensor for Detection of Multiple Solvents

Physical Sciences : Materials and Compounds

Available for licensing


  • Simon Humphrey, Ph.D. , Chemistry
  • Bradley Holliday, Ph.D. , Chemistry and Biochemistry

Background/unmet need

The detection of contaminating solvents within industrial feedstocks and products, including gasoline and oil derivatives, is a very important issue for industrial applications. Accurate and timely detection of contamination helps to ensure quality, safety, and consistency. Currently, solvent and oil analysis rely heavily on gas chromatography (GC) and other specialized analytical techniques. While useful, these techniques can be costly, require specialized training, and be time-intensive if analysis is conducted off-site. 

Invention Description

A research team at UT Austin has designed and synthesized an entirely new lanthanide (Ln) based, porous, crystalline material that allows the visual detection of particular solvents and solvent impurities in real-time in a nondestructive manner. This is possible due to the ability of the material to emit visible light of discrete colors based on the type of solvent and the amount of impurity present. This allows the immediate detection of the presence of particular organic and inorganic solvents without the need for chemical analysis. 


  • Non-destructive real-time detection of solvents and solvent impurities 
  • Wide range of solvent sensitivities


  • Porous crystalline material
  • Air- and moisture-stable
  • Thermally stable up to >300°C.

Market potential/applications

Real-time analysis of solvent feedstock contamination, industrial production monitoring, polluting discharge monitoring, monitoring oil in tanker bilge and discharge water

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 4 foreign patents application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent application filed