South Korean researchers have announced the development of a skin-like material, inspired by natural biology, capable of quickly adapting its color to resemble its surroundings, like a chameleon.
A The team, led by Ko Seung-hwan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Seoul National University, created the “skin” with a special paint that changes color with temperature and is controlled by thin flexible heaters.
“If you wear a desert forest camouflage uniform, you will be easily spotted,” Ko told Reuters. “Actively changing colors and designs as your surroundings are key to the cloaking technology we’ve created.”
Ko and the team demonstrated the technology –thermochromic liquid crystal (TLC) ) and vertically stacked multi-layer silver nanowire heaters– using a robot with color-detecting sensors. Whatever colors the sensors “see” around it, the skin tried to mimic.
In one video, the robot glided over red, blue and green floors, instantly changing color to match the background .
“The color information detected by the sensors is transferred to a microprocessor and then to silver nanowire heaters. When they reach a certain temperature, the thermodynamic liquid crystal layer changes color”, said Ko.
The total thickness of flexible multilayer artificial skin is less than a hundred micrometers—thinner than a human hair. By adding additional silver nanowire layers in simple shapes like dots, lines or squares, the skin can create complex designs.
“The flexible skin can be developed into a ‘wearable’ device and used in clothing, military camouflage uniforms, exteriors of cars and buildings, for aesthetic purposes and future demonstration technology,” explained Ko.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications in August.
Translation by Luis Roberto Mendes Gonçalves