Science News

Artificial Chameleon-Like Skin Changes Colors On Demand

Color Changing Camouflage

Engineers at University of California at Berkeley have developed a synthetic color-changing “skin” reminiscent of a chameleon’s active camouflage.

In order to activate the new multicolored material, simply apply a minute amount of force and the incredibly thin material changes color.

The breakthrough, which was reported by the team of researchers at UC Berkeley in the journal Optica on March 12, 2015, opens up intriguing new possibility for color-shifting camouflage, new display technologies and so on.

Co-author of the paper and member of the team of Berkeley researchers, Connie J. Chang-Hasnain, was quoted in a release on EurekAlert as having said that the creation of the innovative new material marks “the first time anybody has made a flexible chameleon-like skin that can change color simply by flexing it”.

The hi-tech “chameleon-like skin” was created by etching tiny features smaller than a wavelength of light onto a silicon film one-thousand times thinner than a strand of human hair.

Researchers behind the exciting color-changing film were able to select the range of colors the material would reflect based on how it was flexed and bent.

Changing the color or a surface requires the chemical make-up to be altered, which is why engineers and scientists have been exploring the notion of creating colors without the use of chemical dyes and pigments by controlling the chemical composition of material; such is the case with this new space age material. Chang-Hasnain explains that a surface with very precise structures “can interact with a specific wavelength of light” and when the dimensions are altered, affecting a change to its properties and how the surface interacts with light becomes possible.

If you have a surface with very precise structures, spaced so they can interact with a specific wavelength of light, you can change its properties and how it interacts with light by changing its dimensions

The concept of controlling light with structures rather than traditional optics is not a new one. In the case of astronomy, as an example, diffraction gratings are regularly used to direct and split light into the colors which compose it.

What are your thoughts on this new artificial chameleon skin?

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