Engineers at the University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, California have developed super-thin, synthetic color-changing skin. It reportedly can give any surface the color-changing capabilities of a chameleon.
According to a report on the subject just published in the journal Optica, the color-changing skin is a film of silicon that is “one-thousandth the width of a human hair” that is capable of changing colors on demand. It could someday be used as a part of defect-detecting sensor or display system in things such as aircraft, bridges and/or buildings.
Connie J. Chang-Hasnain, chair of the university’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Graduate Group stated: “This is the first time anybody has made a flexible chameleon-like skin that can change color simply by flexing it.” The color-changing film is said to utilize a new approach to color-changing that is based on changing the surface structure in order to reflect numerous visible wavelengths instead of actual alterations to the chemical make-up that gives dyes and paints their various colors.
The color-changing film is composed of “a semiconducting silicon 120 nanometers thick.” At present, it has only been made and displayed as “a 1-cenimeter-square layer.”
Miniscule ridge-like features thinner than one wavelength of light are reportedly cut into the thin silicon color-changing material. Each is meant to reflect a specific wavelength and corresponding color. Thus the color the material reflects can thus be altered simply by bending or flexing the surface.
Chang-Hasnain reported in a release: “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.”
Chang-Hasnain concluded: “The next step is to make this larger-scale and there are facilities already that could do so. “At that point, we hope to be able to find applications in entertainment, security and monitoring.”
UC Engineers Invent Color-Changing Skin