A material able to quickly change from transparent to different bright hues could have applications ranging from skyscraper windows to cosmetics.
The material was created by accident by Georgia Tech graduate student Dylan T. Christiansen, who made very small changes to the structures of anodically coloring electrochromes (ACEs), which change color when exposed to an oxidizing voltage. Instead of the slight change he expected, the molecules produced a vibrant red, yellow, and two greens while also remaining clear in the neutral state—with no blue tint.
The team then blended the molecules much like mixing inks to create a mixture that will switch from fully clear to opaque black, paving the way to self-shading windows and pilot visors that adjust opacity on command.
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