MIT’s new color changing ink could revolutionize design principles


MIT is coming out with a game-changing new way to see color. The university’s proprietary new “reprogrammable ink” allows users to change the way an object is colored with UV light. Modeled after a chameleon’s skin, the substance may revolutionize the way that designers create their products.

Everyone from sneakerheads to car fans is already dreaming up ways that the tech could make their passion even more visually appealing.

Rainbow of Colors

The new tech was developed by a team at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT in Boston, Massachusetts. By mixing several colors of photochromic dye, the team’s innovation replicates the pigment-changing characteristics of a chameleon.

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In line with that, the tech is cleverly called “PhotoChromeleon Ink.”

Since it contains a mixture of cyan, magenta, and yellow, the ink is able to replicate almost any color under the sun. However, what makes it so interesting is the fact that it can change itself completely an unlimited number of times. Unlike the color-changing products of a company like Del Sol that react to UV rays in the sunlight, MIT’s ink retains its programmed color both outdoors and inside.

New Color, Please

This innovation is truly exciting for designers and consumers alike. For those that aren’t happy with the colorway of their sneaker or the paint job on their car, changing the pigment takes just 15 to 40 minutes.

Exposure to bright UV light erases the ink’s color and allows users to start over. From there, they can create practically any solid color or pattern with 3D modeling software and apply it to a digital version of their item. Then, with a DLP projector, the design can be programmed onto the object’s surface. It remains in that state permanently until it is again exposed to UV light.

In CSAIL’s demo video, the ink certainly looks impressive. The team used a toy chameleon, a phone case, a model car, and a shoe to demonstrate the technology’s effectiveness. It is capable of producing surprisingly high-definition patterns. Not to mention, it’s extremely satisfying to watch.


Should the CSAIL tech reach the general manufacturing industry and/or the consumer market, it would be a total game-changer. It would give users endless ways to customize their stuff over and over again.

Meanwhile, the CSAIL team sees the ink as a way to help companies cut down on waste. The study’s leader, Yuhua Jin, says, “This special type of dye could enable a whole myriad of customization options that could improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce overall waste.”

While it will likely take a while to see PhotoChromeleon Ink on real products, there is certainly hope. Just look at Vantablack. That material is already debuting on a BMW show car only a few years after it was a lowly lab experiment.