Making the material starts with a sheet of transparent indium tin oxide which is usually used in computer displays. On top of that goes a solution that includes a new type of crystal — developed by the U of M researchers — that’s chemically similar to the ingredients found in latex paint.
However, when light hits that top layer, it creates an electrical charge on the underlying metallic sheet that causes the crystal particles to move towards or away from it, creating distinct shapes or patterns. Similar materials have existed before, but they could only form pre-existing shapes and templates on the underlying material. But this new approach mimics the exact shape of the light that hits it.
The new material could eventually pave the way for active camouflage that’s able to match unique patterns or colours all around it, based on reflected light hitting it. Or displays for mobile devices that are able to adjust themselves for better contrast, depending on where they’re being viewed. [YouTube via Popular Science]