PhotoChromeleon: MIT Researchers Create Incredible Color-changing Ink

The new ink can be used on cars, phone cases, shoes, and countless other accessories.

MIT researchers have created a type of ink that emits different colors depending on the light that is shone on it. The ink was created by the computer science and artificial intelligence department.

This new type of ink could be used on clothing, accessories, and decorative objects.

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Chameleon mimicry

A team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has created ink with chameleon-like properties. Rather than reacting to mood though, the "reprogrammable ink" changes color when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) and visible light sources. 

Different wavelengths of light emit different colors from dyed objects using this ink, the researchers say in their paper.

PhotoChromeleon

Dubbed "PhotoChromeleon" by the researchers, the ink is made out of a mixture of photochromic dyes that can be sprayed or painted onto objects. This can be done any number of times.

PhotoChromeleon: MIT Researchers Create Incredible Color-changing Ink
Source: MITCSAIL

The ink is resistant to wear and tear, and can be used for outdoor shoes, the researchers say.

“This special type of dye could enable a whole myriad of customization options that could improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce overall waste,” CSAIL postdoc Yuhua Jin, the lead author on a new paper about the project, said in an MIT press release.

“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.”

PhotoChromeleon: MIT Researchers Create Incredible Color-changing Ink
Source: (screen capture) MITCSAIL/YouTube

"PhotoChromeleon" builds on the team's previous work on "ColorMod," which used a 3D printer to change the color of printed pieces. 

The team created the "PhotoChromeleon" ink by mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY) photochromic dyes into a single solution.

PhotoChromeleon: MIT Researchers Create Incredible Color-changing Ink
Source: (screen capture) MITCSAIL/YouTube

Each dye interacts in a separate way with different wavelengths. Knowing this, the team was able to control which colors appeared through activating and deactivating the light sources that corresponded to different colors.

Spray on a fresh look

This approach could even help encourage people to keep old possessions for longer, by allowing a fresh look to be easily applied by spraying or painting the ink onto any object.

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PhotoChromeleon: MIT Researchers Create Incredible Color-changing Ink
Source: (screen capture) MITCSAIL/YouTube

“By giving users the autonomy to individualize their items, countless resources could be preserved, and the opportunities to creatively change your favorite possessions are boundless,” says MIT Professor Stefanie Mueller.   

The paper was co-authored by Jin and Mueller who worked with CSAIL postdocs Isabel Qamar and Michael Wessely and a group of MIT students.

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