How cool would it be to precisely match your surroundings in a matter of seconds? I can think of a few scenarios where it would come in handy. For example, when I accidentally left my phone on during a wedding ceremony and a call came in and it started blaring the “Sanford and Son” theme song right as the bride and groom were about to say “I do.” I would’ve paid big bucks to be able to blend in with the scenery. For cephalopods (think squid and octopuses), it’s their nature. And according to new research by Leila Deravi, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern University, we are a step closer to harnessing their powers of disguise.
An article on the Northeastern University website explains that the chromatophore organs, which appear as hundreds of multi-colored freckles on the surface of a cephalopod’s body, contribute to fast changes in skin color. Deravi’s group isolated the pigment granules within these organs to better understand their role in color change and discovered they have remarkable optical qualities. The team used them to make thin films and fibers that could be incorporated into textiles, flexible displays and future color-changing devices. Deravi’s lab collaborated with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center for the study.
I’m guessing I will have to wait a few more years before I can buy a color-changing dress. Until then, my phone will remain on silent. Or at the very least have Pachelbel’s Canon in D as the ringtone.
Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. She is also a non-denominational wedding officiant and a fan of “Sanford and Son.” You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.