Chameleon-Inspired Camouflage | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 94 Issue 4 | p. 27 | Concentrates
Issue Date: January 25, 2016

Chameleon-Inspired Camouflage

Nanotechnology: Active camouflage is achieved by electrochemically altering an array of ‘nanodome’ plasmonic cells
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Materials SCENE, Nano SCENE
Keywords: camouflage, chameleon, nanotechnology
A mechanical chameleon changes color as it rolls past different colored backgrounds.
Credit: ACS Nano

Chameleons are nature’s masters of disguise, blending into their surroundings by changing the spacing between guanine nanocrystals in their skin. This trick alters the wavelengths of light their skin absorbs and reflects. Inspired by the chameleon’s clever camouflage, engineers in China have developed an artificial camouflage system that takes advantage of the light-reflecting and light-absorbing properties of nanoparticles (ACS Nano 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.5b07472). Researchers led by Guoping Wang of Wuhan University and Sheng Chu of Sun Yat-sen University created arrays of gold “nanodomes” roughly 50 nm across and packaged them into cells filled with a gel electrolyte containing silver ions. By electrodepositing or stripping silver from the surface of the gold nanodomes, the researchers change the nanoparticles’ plasmonic characteristics and therefore the color of the cells. Wang and Chu’s team created a “mechanical chameleon” covered with “scales” represented by the nanodome-based cells. The scales are connected to cameras that analyze color and transmit the appropriate electric voltage to generate colors that match the color of the mechanical chameleon’s background to keep it camouflaged. At the moment, the mechanical chameleon only works with backgrounds of red, green, and blue, but the engineers hope to combine it with more sophisticated color-sensing systems.

A mechanical chameleon changes color as it rolls past different colored backgrounds.
Credit: ACS Nano


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