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Pixel Technology Could Bring Active Camouflage to Buildings


By Naomi Millán Windows & Exterior Walls
Artwork projected onto the Sydney Opera House.
© G. Tipene | Shutterstock

Cloaking technology may one day be possible for buildings, thanks to a recent development in pixels which will make building-size displays possible, according to the University of Cambridge.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed pixels a million times smaller than the ones used in smartphones and were able to spray them onto flexible plastic films. Wrapping a building in such a film would produce a structure that can blend into its background, like an octopus, or more helpfully switch its color to reject thermal heat load.

The tiny pixels are built with a speck of gold a few billionths of a meter across. The gold sits on top of a reflective surface, trapping light in between. Surrounding this with an electrically switchable coating allows the pixel to be tuned across the color spectrum. The pixels can be seen in bright sunlight, and do not require constant flow of electricity to hold the tuned color, according to the university.

Researchers are now working on expanding the range of colors achievable with the technology, and finding partners to develop it further.

Their research findings, Scalable electrochromic nanopixels using plasmonics, were published in Science Advances.

Naomi Millán is senior editor of Building Operating Management. 

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