Chameleon-inspired nanolaser changes colors

June 20, 2018 by Amanda Morris, Northwestern University
Chameleon-inspired nanolaser changes colors
Novel nanolaser leverages the same color-changing mechanism that a chameleon uses to camouflage its skin. Credit: Northwestern University

As a chameleon shifts its color from turquoise to pink to orange to green, nature's design principles are at play. Complex nano-mechanics are quietly and effortlessly working to camouflage the lizard's skin to match its environment.

Inspired by nature, a Northwestern University team has developed a novel that changes colors using the same mechanism as chameleons. The work could open the door for advances in flexible optical displays in smartphones and televisions, wearable photonic devices and ultra-sensitive sensors that measure strain.

"Chameleons can easily change their colors by controlling the spacing among the nanocrystals on their skin, which determines the we observe," said Teri W. Odom, 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."

The research was published online yesterday in the journal Nano Letters. Odom, who is the associate director of Northwestern's International Institute of Nanotechnology, and George C. Schatz, Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in Weinberg, served as the paper's co-corresponding authors.

The same way a controls the spacing of nanocrystals on its skin, the Northwestern team's laser exploits periodic arrays of metal nanoparticles on a stretchable, polymer matrix. As the matrix either stretches to pull the nanoparticles farther apart or contracts to push them closer together, the wavelength emitted from the laser changes wavelength, which also changes its color.

Novel nanolaser leverages the same color-changing mechanism that a chameleon uses to camouflage its skin. Credit: Egor Kamelev

"Hence, by stretching and releasing the elastomer substrate, we could select the emission color at will," Odom said.

The resulting laser is robust, tunable, reversible and has a high sensitivity to strain. These properties are critical for applications in responsive optical displays, on-chip photonic circuits and multiplexed optical communication.

Explore further: News laser design offers more inexpensive multi-color output

More information: Danqing Wang et al. Stretchable Nanolasing from Hybrid Quadrupole Plasmons, Nano Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b01774

Related Stories

Polymers that mimic chameleon skin

March 30, 2018

Biological tissues have complex mechanical properties – soft-yet-strong, tough-yet-flexible – that are difficult to reproduce using synthetic materials. An international team has managed to produce a biocompatible synthetic ...

Recommended for you

Single-celled architects inspire new nanotechnology

July 16, 2018

Diatoms are tiny, unicellular creatures, inhabiting oceans, lakes, rivers, and soils. Through their respiration, they produce close to a quarter of the oxygen on earth, nearly as much as the world's tropical forests. In addition ...

X-ray triggered nano-bubbles to target cancer

July 16, 2018

Innovative drug filled nano-bubbles, able to be successfully triggered in the body by X-rays, have been developed by researchers, paving the way for a new range of cancer treatments for patients.

Smart window controls light and heat, kills microorganisms

July 13, 2018

A new smart window offers more than just a nice view—it also controls the transmittance of sunlight, heats the interiors of buildings by converting solar radiation into heat, and virtually eliminates E. coli bacteria living ...

Quantum dot white LEDs achieve record efficiency

July 12, 2018

Researchers have demonstrated nanomaterial-based white-light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that exhibit a record luminous efficiency of 105 lumens per watt. Luminous efficiency is a measure of how well a light source uses power ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.