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Chameleon-Inspired Nanolaser Changes Colors

As a chameleon switches its color from turquoise to pink to orange to green, depending on its surroundings, nature’s design principles are at play. Inside its skin, complex nano-mechanics are quietly and effortlessly working to camouflage the lizard’s appearance to match its environment.

Now, inspired by nature, a team at Chicago’s Northwestern University has developed a novel nanolaser that changes colors using the same mechanism as chameleons. They say that the work could open the door for advances in flexible optical displays for smartphones and televisions, wearable photonic devices and ultra-sensitive sensors to measure strain, for example.

“Chameleons can easily change their colors by controlling the spacing among the nanocrystals on their skin, which determines the color presented,” said Teri Odom, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “This coloring based on surface structure is chemically stable and robust.”

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