Washington: Researchers have recently created a chameleon-like synthetic skin that changes color on demand by simply applying a minute amount of force.
This new material of many colors, invented by engineers from the University of California at Berkeley, offers intriguing possibilities for an entirely new class of display technologies, color-shifting camouflage, and sensors that can detect otherwise imperceptible defects in buildings, bridges, and aircraft.
By precisely etching tiny features, smaller than a wavelength of light, onto a silicon film one thousand times thinner than a human hair, the researchers were able to select the range of colors the material would reflect, depending on how it was flexed and bent.
The semiconductor material also allowed the team to create a skin that was incredibly thin, perfectly flat, and easy to manufacture with the desired surface properties. This produces materials that reflect precise and very pure colors and that are highly efficient, reflecting up to 83 percent of the incoming light.
For this demonstration, the researchers created a one-centimeter square layer of color-shifting silicon. Future developments would be needed to create a material large enough for commercial applications.
For consumers, this chameleon material could be used in a new class of display technologies, adding brilliant color presentations to outdoor entertainment venues. It also might be possible to create an active camouflage on the exterior of vehicles that would change color to better match the surrounding environment.
More day-to-day applications could include sensors that would change color to indicate that structural fatigue was stressing critical components on bridges, buildings, or the wings of airplanes.