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Brief Published: 8 Feb 2013

Bio-Inspired Fibre


Material scientists at Harvard University, US, and the University of Exeter, UK, have developed a fibre that changes colour when stretched. The fibre, which mimics the colour-changing ability of the fruit of the South American “bastard hogberry” plant, could be used in sportswear as a smart material that changes colour in areas of muscle tension. It is highly flexible and can be wound to coat complex shapes.

The surface structure of the hogberry fruit has a layered cylindrical pattern that creates colour by interfering with light waves, which means the hogberry fruit appears a different colour in sunlight.

The research team combined elements of the hogberry’s natural configuration with an elastic material to create an artificial, material version of the hogberry’s structure “that passes through a full rainbow of colours as it’s stretched”.

“Our new fibre is based on a structure we found in nature and, through clever engineering, we’ve taken its capabilities a step further,” lead author Mathias Kolle said in a statement.

For more on how biomimetic breakthroughs could transform product manufacturing and urban design, see Learning from Natural Systems and Biological Blueprints.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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