MIT engineers applied a 19th century holography technique onto modern materials to create a stretchy, color-changing film that reflect different wavelengths as it’s strained. They started by printing stretchy films with flower bouquets capable of morphing from warm to cooler shades when stretched.
What they came up with in the end is the world’s first scalable manufacturing technique for producing detailed, large-scale materials with “structural color”, or color that arises as a consequence of a material’s microscopic structure instead of from chemical additives or dyes. We can’t forget that MIT engineers also developed the first plane that can fly without any moving parts.
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Scaling these materials is not trivial, because you need to control these structures at the nanoscale. Now that we’ve cleared this scaling hurdle, we can explore questions like: Can we use this material to make robotic skin that has a human-like sense of touch? And can we create touch-sensing devices for things like virtual augmented reality or medical training? It’s a big space we’re looking at now,” said Benjamin Miller, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.