Scientists have created "chameleon" ink that changes colour when exposed to light

A team of scientists from Massachusett Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has created a reprogrammable ink that can change colours when explosed to light.

Dubbed 'PhotoChromeleon', the ink uses a mix of photochromic dyes that can be sprayed or painted onto the surface of any object to change its colour - a process that is fully reversible and can be repeated infinitely. It can be used on anything, from phone cases to shoes, or a car.

The same team of scientists that created PhotoChromeleon had previously created 'ColorMod', a system that uses a 3D printer to fabricate items that can change their colour. However, ColorMod was limited to a small colour scheme and low resolution results which led the team to start looking at the potential updates that led them to PhotoChromeleon.

The team tested the new ink on a car, a phone case, a shoe and a toy chameleon, and the patterns all had high resolutions and could be successfully erased when desired. Depending on the shape and orientation of the object, the process took anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes.

According to CSAIL postdoc Yuhua Jin, the lead author on a new paper about the project, “This special type of dye could enable a whole myriad of customization options that could improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce overall waste,” says . “Users could personalize their belongings and appearance on a daily basis, without the need to buy the same object multiple times in different colors and styles.”

Alper Kiziltas, technical specialist of sustainable and emerging materials at Ford Motor Co. (Ford has been working with MIT on the ColorMod 3-D technology through an alliance collaboration.) , also added that “we believe incorporation of novel, multi-photochromic inks into traditional materials can add value to Ford products by reducing the cost and time required for fabricating automotive parts. This ink could reduce the number of steps required for producing a multicolor part, or improve the durability of the color from weathering or UV degradation. One day, we might even be able to personalize our vehicles on a whim.”


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