Scientists Create Artificial 'Chameleon' Skin That Can Change Color on Demand

Thursday, 19 March 2015 - 11:28AM
Weird Science
Science of Sci-Fi
Thursday, 19 March 2015 - 11:28AM
Scientists Create Artificial 'Chameleon' Skin That Can Change Color on Demand
Recently, researchers finally found the mechanism by which chameleons change the color of the skin: changing the arrangement of nanocrystals under their skin. Now, a team of engineers has created a means by which humans can perform the same feat, if in a very different way. In a new study, the research team details an impossibly thin film that serves as artificial "skin," and can change color on demand.

"This is the first time anybody has made a flexible chameleon-like skin that can change color simply by flexing it," said co-author Connie J. Chang-Hasnain.

The silicon film is a thousand times smaller than a human hair, and has features etched on it that are smaller than a wavelength of light. As a result of this precision, the researchers were able to choose specifically which color wavelengths would be reflected by the film, depending on how it is stretched and bent. By applying just a small amount of pressure, the film changes color and effectively camouflages the object it's covering. 

"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," said Chang-Hasnain.

Scientists Create Artificial 'Chameleon' Skin That Can Change Color on Demand

[Credit: The Optical Society]



Thus far, the film comes in smaller panels, but the researchers are working on production of larger panels, which would lead to wider applications. The film could potentially be used to cover buildings, in order to detect stresses on the structure. And, of course, it could be used to camouflage military vehicles, including tanks, aircraft, etc. Or, alternatively, you could use it on yourself and do an extremely committed cosplay of the Predator.
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