Probably, each of us dreamed of an invisibility cloak in childhood. Well, apparently reminiscent of their childhood dreams, researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed real artificial leather that can change its color like a chameleon. According to scientists, such an invention can be applied in camouflage and in the development of large-scale dynamic displays. Such news periodically appears in the press. Is it really different this time?
Why does a chameleon change color?
Chameleons have always stood out from other animals due to their unusual ability to change the color of their body. The ancient Roman scientist Pliny was very interested in studying the nature of such an interesting skill, who believed that it was the environment and the background that somehow influenced the color of the chameleons. In the 17th century, scientists believed that by painting its body in different colors, an animal shows a level of emotional excitement and experiences. The second option turned out to be the closest to the truth. So, with the help of coloring, chameleons communicate with their own kind, and the brightest color in this case is obtained when the males meet each other. In other words, by painting their bodies with all the colors of the rainbow, chameleons show their desire to be noticed. In addition, the color of the chameleon often changes depending on the ambient temperature or when the animal s usual level of lighting and humidity changes. It is this feature that scientists from the University of Cambridge decided to use as an example to create a new invention – a unique camouflage material that can change its color.
An example of changing the color of a material. Source here
Can an item be made invisible?
Inspired by the ability of chameleons and cuttlefish to change their color, masquerading as their environment, researchers at the University of Cambridge have created a unique material consisting of gold particles in a polymer shell. In order for gold to reflect light, scientists placed it in microdroplets of water in oil. When exposed to heat or light, the particles acquire the ability to change the color of the material.
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In nature, chameleons are able to change color thanks to chromatophores – skin cells with special contractile fibers that allow coloring pigments to move.
Artificial chromatophores developed by Cambridge researchers change color at temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius. When this temperature is reached, the nanoparticles begin to accumulate a large amount of energy in a fraction of a second, since the polymer coatings displace all the water and break down. As the material cools, the polymers gradually capture water and expand, changing their original shape.
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The geometry of the clusters affects the color of the nanoparticles: when the nanoparticles are scattered, they are red, and when they cluster together, they turn dark blue.
At the moment, the material developed by the Cambridge researchers has only one layer, so it can only change one color. However, the use of new materials to create reflective nanoparticles will help researchers achieve the desired “chameleon effect”.
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