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University of Michigan researchers say chameleon crystals make active camouflage possible

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 8:16 PM - Researchers at the University of Michigan say that controlling special chameleon crystals with light and chemistry could lead to the development of products that can change colour at the flip of a switch.

The researchers have developed a method for manipulating crystals as they form in a solution of latex paint microparticles that are about 0.001 millimeters in diametre, in a kerosene-like fluid.  

When exposed to UV light, the particles can be shaped into changeable structures that appear as different colours and patterns.

When the lights are turned off, the crystal dissolves back into the solution.

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"We can shine the light in a certain region, and the particles create a crystalline region where they all come together and create this crystal structure," said Youngri Kim, the study's lead author

According to Yahoo News, traditional methods of creating camouflage involve applying electric or magnetic fields to particles -- but it can be a complex and expensive process.

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This new method appears to be more efficient and researchers say it has exciting applications.

For example, the technology could one day be used to created colour-changing cars, clothing or paint.

Scientists say the study is still in its preliminary phase and more research needs to be done before the technology is ready for real-life application.

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