Thursday, March 19, 2015

UCL researchers discover how to create colors through silicon skin with a greater amount of flexibility.

Imagine cars that change colors on-demand, or bridges and buildings whose colors reflect the amount of strain or stress applied to them. We would all benefit from such innovation.

Last week, March 12, researchers at the University of California, (UCL), Berkeley, announced the creation of a thin semiconductor film of silicon, 120 nanometers thick, that when flexed or bent can reflect colors on a wide variety of the light spectrum; a color-changing sensor film.

Attempts at creating a color changing sensor is not new. Last year, in a research funded by the National Science Foundation, (NSF), researchers at the same University, but the Riverside campus, created a nanosphere-laced polymer that changes color under stress using gold nanoparticles. What differentiates the silicon film from other sensors is that the range of reflected light is much flexible and the material used was much more permeable to bending or flexing.

The colors of a butterfly excites the emotions.
Credit: Stux on Pixabay.
The idea behind the invention came from nowhere but nature. They conceived the idea of imitating butterflies and beetles who create iridescent displays of colors.

According to one of the researchers, "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."

Cars of tomorrow might respond like a chameleon to its environment, or change to colors reflecting the amount of pressure applied to the body, or in relation to the amount of stress or strain undergone during its lifetime. The possibilities are enormous.


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