Chameleon-Like Material Changes Colors When Stretched

Joseph and the technicolor silicon

The trippy pulsating flower above is actually color-changing science in motion.

Scientists at UC Berkeley developed a new super-thin silicon material that changes color when force is applied (like stretching). The research was published today in Optica.

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

The silicon film, hundreds of times thinner than a human hair, is etched with a pattern of ridges that reflect light in a certain way. When the material is stretched, the ridges spread out or compress, reflecting a different color in the process. Eventually, the researchers hope, the material could be used to mimic a variety of colors, and find use in everything from displays to camouflage.

“The next step is to make this larger-scale and there are facilities already that could do so,” said Chang-Hasnain. “At that point, we hope to be able to find applications in entertainment, security, and monitoring.”

For now though, they're starting small. The prototype above is only one centimeter square.