A team of materials scientists at Harvard University and the University of Exeter, UK, has invented a new fiber that changes color when stretched. Inspired by nature, the researchers identified and replicated the unique structural elements that create the bright, iridescent blue color of a tropical plant’s fruit. The multilayered fiber could lend itself to the creation of smart fabrics that visibly react to heat or pressure.

The team replicated the key structural elements of the fruit to create flexible, stretchable, and color-changing photonic fibers using an innovative roll-up mechanism created in the Harvard laboratories.

The fibers’ superior mechanical properties, combined with their demonstrated color brilliance and tunability, make them very versatile. For instance, the fibers can be wound to coat complex shapes. Because the fibers change color under strain, the technology could lead to smart sports textiles that change color in areas of muscle tension, or when an object is placed under strain as a result of heat.


Also: Learn about an electrospun nanofiber coating.