The future of color-changing body armor may be here, and it’s in the form of this chameleon-shaped robot. Researchers from China’s Wuhan University took a 3D-printed model (which also resembles a cat, but let’s not split hairs) and covered it in plasmonic displays, which can produce colors and rapidly change between them by detecting the background with light sensors.
The displays are made from small sheets of glass with a grid of holes that measure only 50 nanometers wide. The researchers then coated the sheets in gold, which created small domes in each hole, followed by another layer electrolyte gel with silver ions. Plasmons, or ripples of electrons, are said to be created when light hits the gold domes, which in turn determines its properties of reflection and absorption.
Different colors are produced when an electric field is connected, altering how many silver ions stick to the gold. Sensors were then added that can detect the light and color of the surroundings, and then adjust the electric field to change colors as needed.
The scientists say that the robot is currently limited to matching only the primary colors of red, green, and blue, but they believe with more advancements it could be able to detect and match any color. The hope is that one day the technology could be miniaturized and developed into adaptive camouflage for military vehicles or body armor.