Chameleon-like silicon skin changes color on demand

March 24, 2015
UC Berkeley engineers have created an ultra-thin film that can shift colors as easily as a chameleon's skin.

University of California, Berkeley engineers have created an ultra-thin film that can shift colors as easily as a chameleon's skin when pulled or twisted. Taking inspiration from nature, the thin-skinned material could be developed into active camouflage on vehicle exteriors, or used for a new class of display technologies. It could also be used as an early warning system for structural fatigue by changing color when critical components on bridges, buildings, or the wings of airplanes are stressed.

RELATED ARTICLE: Plasmonic color-changing pressure-sensitive film could end up in baseball gloves

The research team, led by Connie Chang-Hasnain, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, described their material in a study in the journal Optica.

Instead of using chemical dyes or pigments to absorb and reflect light, the engineers manipulated the structure of the material, in this case a film of silicon about a thousand times thinner than a human hair, to do the job. Rows of tiny ridgeseach smaller than a wavelength of lightetched onto the film would reflect light at different wavelengths, depending upon how far about the ridges are spaced.

Tuning the spaces between the ridges allowed the researchers to select specific colors to be reflected. This feature also meant that shifting the spaces between the ridges by flexing or bending the material would lead to a different wavelength of reflected light.

It was only earlier this week that scientists at the University of Geneva revealed how chameleons change colors. The color-shifting lizard changes the spacing of nanocrystals just under their skin. "We were fascinated by the chameleon's ability to change colors, and the process of mimicking their skin has been exciting," said Chang-Hasnain. "The coolest thing is that you can hold the sample film and stretch it to see the colorful effect."

SOURCE: UC Berkeley;

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a quote: Micro 3D Printed Part or microArch micro-precision 3D printers

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

How to Tune Servo Systems: The Basics

April 10, 2024
Learn how to tune a servo system using frequency-based tools to meet system specifications by watching our webinar!

Precision Motion Control for Sample Manipulation in Ultra-High Resolution Tomography

April 10, 2024
Learn the critical items that designers and engineers must consider when attempting to achieve reliable ultra-high resolution tomography results here!

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!