Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Squid skin inspires colourful display

Credit: K. Stiefel/Q. Wang/G. Gossweiler

A flexible material can display patterns much in the same way that cuttlefish, octopuses and squid (pictured) form colourful spots in their skin.

To quickly change their appearance and camouflage themselves, such cephalopods use their muscles to stretch and relax small sacs of pigment under their skin. A team led by Xuanhe Zhao of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge developed an artificial equivalent using silicone rubber and organic compounds called spiropyran mechanophores, which glow when exposed to force. The researchers control the display by applying an electric field to deform the silicone, causing the mechanophores to glow in various repeated patterns including lines, circles and letters.

The display size and resolution could be scaled up for use as a camouflaging coating, the authors say.

Nature Commun. 5, 4899 (2014)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Squid skin inspires colourful display. Nature 513, 463 (2014).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing