South Korean researchers have developed an artificial skin-like material, inspired by natural biology, that can quickly adjust its hues to match its surroundings like a chameleon.
The team, led by Ko Seung-hwan, pictured, a mechanical engineering professor at Seoul National University, created the “skin” with a special ink that changes color based on temperature and is controlled by tiny, flexible heaters. Their research appeared in the journal Nature Communications in August 2021.
“If you wear woodland camouflage uniforms in desert, you can be easily exposed,” Ko said. “Changing colors and patterns actively in accordance with surroundings is key to the camouflage technology that we created.”
The team demonstrated the technology — thermochromic liquid crystal ink and vertically stacked multilayer silver nanowire heaters — using a robot with color-detecting sensors. Whatever colors the sensors “saw” around it, the skin tried to mimic.
“The color information detected by sensors is transferred to a microprocessor and then to silver nanowire heaters. Once the heaters reach a certain temperature, the thermochromic liquid crystal layer changes its color,” Ko said.
The flexible, multilayered artificial skin is thinner than a human hair. By adding silver nanowire layers in simple shapes such as dots, lines or squares, the skin can create complex patterns.
“The flexible skin can be developed as a wearable device and used for fashion, military camouflage uniforms, exterior of cars and buildings for aesthetic purposes and for future display technology,” Ko said. Reuters