Some of us divers may have personally encountered the amazing way cuttlefish, octopuses and squids can change their skin colour and literally disappear in front of our eyes.
Inspired by this, the engineers at Rutgers University–New Brunswick have developed a 3D-printed smart gel that changes shape when exposed to light, as well as a 3D-printed stretchy material that can reveal colours when the light changes.
A paper on the research has been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
in a press release issued, senior author Howon Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the School of Engineering, said that despite electronic displays becoming thinner, larger and brighter, they were based on rigid materials, and this limited the shapes they can take and how they interfaced with 3D surfaces.
“Our research supports a new engineering approach featuring camouflage that can be added to soft materials and create flexible, colourful displays,” he added.
This is achieved by incorporating a light-sensing nanomaterial in the hydrogel (or smart gel), thus turning it into an “artificial muscle” that contracts in response to changes in light. And, when combined with a newly developed 3D-printed stretchy material, this light-sensing hydrogel changes colour, resulting in a camouflage effect.
The applications for such technology can be found in military camouflage, soft robotics and flexible displays.