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South Korean researchers create artificial chameleon-like ‘skin’

South Korean researchers say they have developed an artificial, skin-like material inspired by natural biology that can quickly adjust its hues like a chameleon to match its surroundings.

The team, led by Ko Seung-hwan, professor of mechanical engineering at Seoul National University, created the “skin” with a special ink that changes color with temperature and is controlled by tiny heating elements. flexible.

“If you wear woodland camouflage uniforms in the desert, you can be easily exposed,” Ko said. Reuters. “Actively changing colors and patterns to suit the environment is key to the camouflage technology we have created. “

Ko and the team demonstrated the technology – thermochromic liquid crystal (TLC) ink and vertically stacked multilayer silver nanowire heaters – using a robot with color detection sensors. . Whatever colors the sensors “saw” around her, the skin tried to mimic them.

In one video, the robot crawled across red, blue, and green floors, instantly changing color to match the background.

“The color information detected by the sensors is transferred to a microprocessor and then to silver nanowire heaters. Once the heating elements reach a certain temperature, the thermochromic liquid crystal layer changes color, ”Ko said.

The total thickness of the flexible, multi-layered artificial skin is less than one hundred microns, which is thinner than a human hair. By adding layers of additional silver nanowires in simple shapes such as dots, lines, or squares, the skin can create intricate patterns.

chameleon Ko Seung-hwan, professor of mechanical engineering at Seoul National University, looks at a chameleon robot covered in artificial skin, in Seoul, South Korea, September 7, 2021. (REUTERS)

“The flexible skin can be developed as a wearable device and used for fashion, military camouflage uniforms, the exterior of cars and buildings for cosmetic purposes and for future display technology,” Ko said. The research was published in the journal Nature Communication in August.

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