Structurally coloured materials that change their colour in response to mechanical stimuli are uniquely suited for optical sensing and visual communication1,2,3,4. The main barrier to their widespread adoption is a lack of manufacturing techniques that offer spatial control of the materials’ nanoscale structures across macroscale areas. Here, by adapting Lippmann photography5, we report an approach for producing large-area, structurally coloured sheets with a rich and easily controlled design space of colour patterns, spectral properties, angular scattering characteristics and responses to mechanical stimuli. Relying on just a digital projector and commercially available photosensitive elastomers, our approach is fast, scalable, affordable and relevant for a wide range of manufacturing settings. We also demonstrate prototypes for mechanosensitive healthcare materials and colorimetric strain and stress sensing for human–computer interaction and robotics.
Your institute does not have access to this article
Subscribe to Nature+
Get immediate online access to the entire Nature family of 50+ journals
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
All data are available in the Letter or Supplementary information.
All MATLAB codes used to determine the material’s peak reflection wavelength and angular distribution, model its optical characteristics to compare with experimental results and predict optical performance, and the code used to convert hue into strain and stress, are available for download from https://github.com/BHMMIT/dynamic-structural-colour.’ with the url ‘https://github.com/BHMMIT/dynamic-structural-colour’ linked.
Ozin, G. A. & Arsenault, A. C. P-Ink and Elast-Ink from lab to market. Mater. Today 11, 44–51 (2008).
Yue, Y. & Gong, J. P. Tunable one-dimensional photonic crystals from soft materials. J. Photochem. Photobiol. C 23, 45–67 (2015).
Cho, Y. et al. Elastoplastic inverse opals as power-free mechanochromic sensors for force recording. Adv. Funct. Mater. 25, 6041–6049 (2015).
Sandt, J. D. et al. Stretchable optomechanical fiber sensors for pressure determination in compressive medical textiles. Adv. Healthc. Mater. 7, 1800293 (2018).
Lippmann, G. La photographie des couleurs. C. R. Hebd. Seances Acad. Sci. 112, 274–275 (1891).
Haque, Md. A., Kurokawa, T., Kamita, G., Yue, Y. & Gong, J. P. Rapid and reversible tuning of structural color of a hydrogel over the entire visible spectrum by mechanical stimulation. Chem. Mater. 23, 5200–5207 (2011).
Zhao, Y., Xie, Z., Gu, H., Zhu, C. & Gu, Z. Bio-inspired variable structural color materials. Chem. Soc. Rev. 41, 3297–3317 (2012).
Finlayson, C. E. & Baumberg, J. J. Polymer opals as novel photonic materials. Polym. Int. 62, 1403–1407 (2013).
Lee, G. H. et al. Chameleon-inspired mechanochromic photonic films composed of non-close-packed colloidal arrays. ACS Nano 11, 11350–11357 (2017).
Fu, F., Shang, L., Chen, Z., Yu, Y. & Zhao, Y. Bioinspired living structural color hydrogels. Sci. Robot. 3, eaar8580 (2018).
Wang, Y. et al. Light-activated shape morphing and light-tracking materials using biopolymer-based programmable photonic nanostructures. Nat. Commun. 12, 1651 (2021).
Fudouzi, H. & Sawada, T. Photonic rubber sheets with tunable color by elastic deformation. Langmuir 22, 1365–1368 (2006).
Arsenault, A. C. et al. From colour fingerprinting to the control of photoluminescence in elastic photonic crystals. Nat. Mater. 5, 179–184 (2006).
Ruhl, T. & Hellmann, G. P. Colloidal crystals in latex films: rubbery opals. Macromol. Chem. Phys. 202, 3502–3505 (2001).
Finlayson, C. E. et al. Ordering in stretch-tunable polymeric opal fibers. Opt. Express 19, 3144–3154 (2011).
Zhao, Q. et al. Large-scale ordering of nanoparticles using viscoelastic shear processing. Nat. Commun. 7, 11661 (2016).
Kim, S. et al. Silk inverse opals. Nat. Photonics 6, 818–823 (2012).
Phillips, K. R. et al. A colloidoscope of colloid-based porous materials and their uses. Chem. Soc. Rev. 45, 281–322 (2016).
Liang, H.-L. et al. Roll-to-roll fabrication of touch-responsive cellulose photonic laminates. Nat. Commun. 9, 4632 (2018).
Kim, H. et al. Structural colour printing using a magnetically tunable and lithographically fixable photonic crystal. Nat. Photonics 3, 534–540 (2009).
Zhang, Y. et al. Super-elastic magnetic structural color hydrogels. Small 15, 1902198 (2019).
Chan, E. P., Walish, J. J., Thomas, E. L. & Stafford, C. M. Block copolymer photonic gel for mechanochromic sensing. Adv. Mater. 23, 4702–4706 (2011).
Kang, H. S. et al. Printable and rewritable full block copolymer structural color. Adv. Mater. 29, 1700084 (2017).
Kim, S.-U. et al. Broadband and pixelated camouflage in inflating chiral nematic liquid crystalline elastomers. Nat. Mater. 21, 41–46 (2022).
Naydenova, I., Jallapuram, R., Toal, V. & Martin, S. A visual indication of environmental humidity using a color changing hologram recorded in a self-developing photopolymer. Appl. Phys. Lett. 92, 031109 (2008).
Yetisen, A. K. et al. Light-directed writing of chemically tunable narrow-band holographic sensors. Adv. Opt. Mater. 2, 250–254 (2014).
Lee, K. M. et al. Reconfigurable reflective colors in holographically patterned liquid crystal gels. ACS Photonics 7, 1978–1982 (2020).
Baechler, G., Latty, A., Pacholska, M., Vetterli, M. & Scholefield, A. Shedding light on 19th century spectra by analyzing Lippmann photography. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 118, e2008819118 (2021).
Blyth, J., Millington, R. B., Mayes, A. G. & Lowe, C. R. A diffusion method for making silver bromide based holographic recording material. Imaging Sci. J. 47, 87–91 (1999).
Cody, D. et al. Self-processing photopolymer materials for versatile design and fabrication of holographic sensors and interactive holograms. Appl. Opt. 57, E173–E183 (2018).
B.M., H.L. and M.K. were supported by a Stepping Strong Innovator Award from the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the National Science Foundation through the ‘Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future’ program (DMREF-1922321), an ignition grant from the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, a Samsung Global Research Opportunities Grant and the MIT ME MathWorks seed fund.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information
Nature Materials thanks Seung Hwan Ko, Yukikazu Takeoka and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Discussions 1–5, Figs. 1–16 and captions for Videos 1–7.
Visualization of the time evolution of the standing-wave field generated upon reflection of an incident light wave from a mirror. The light waves shown in the video have a centre wavelength of 633 nm and a spectral bandwidth of 5 nm in the first section of the movie and 100 nm in the second section. The incidence angle is 15°.
Real-time video capturing the stretching of an 8 × 6 inch structural colour pattern, showing the dynamic colour variation in response to the applied strain. Still frames of this video are shown in Fig. 1b.
Real-time video capturing the stretching of an 8 × 6 inch structural colour pattern that features a flower bouquet in homage to Lippmann’s work.
Real-time stretching of a red structural colour sample with a patterned backing-layer thickness. Thinner areas experience larger strains with correspondingly larger colour travel. Still frames of this video are shown in Fig. 2j.
Real-time stretching of a structural colour pattern with an infrared region. This sample was developed under light exposure at an angle leading to a redshift of the resulting structural colours with respect to the exposure spectrum. The sample exhibits a dark zone in between a green square and a red border. The infrared reflection peak in the dark zone shifts into the visible spectrum when the pattern is stretched. Still frames of this video are shown in Fig. 3c.
Real-time stretching of the structural colour material integrated as a colorimetric pressure sensor in a bandage. Still images of the bandages used as compression wraps that indicate the pressure and pressure gradients are shown in Fig. 4a. The video was acquired outdoors to demonstrate the robust colour response under natural lighting.
Real-time recording of a structural colour sample used as a compression sensor that captures the tapping of fingertips on the material. This video demonstrates the rapid response time of the material and hints at opportunities to detect complex, delicate gestures in human–computer interaction scenarios, in conjunction with passive haptic feedback and force-sensitive multi-touch input.
About this article
Cite this article
Miller, B.H., Liu, H. & Kolle, M. Scalable optical manufacture of dynamic structural colour in stretchable materials. Nat. Mater. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-022-01318-x