Changing your hair color is easy enough: you can dye it, bleach it or rub some hair chalk on it. If you ask a research team from The University of New Mexico, though, they'll tell you that to get any hair color that remains as vivid as the day you applied, you need to etch your hair
strands with nanopatterns. These scientists used focused ion beam
in the lab to etch gratings on each hair strand that reflect light to show a specific color. They found that the technique works best for brown hair, but they've also successfully tested it on black and blonde hair. While the researchers have only been able to successfully etch nanopatterns in a lab setting (the image above is just a mock-up that comes with the university's blog post
), they believe that in the future, people could use a flatiron with interchangeable paddles to color their locks. Since that might sound scary for some people (hey, you're permanently damaging your mane until it grows out, after all), the researchers suggest developing conditioner that coats each strand with polymers that mimic those gratings, so you can wash the color out afterward.
The technology sounds like it's tailored for the young and the hip, but its creators believe that it has other, more significant potential applications. For instance, soldiers can periodically be issued patterns printed on tape for their armor that reflects a specific color under a special light that higher-ups can check to look for spies or the like. Airlines can also plaster these patterns on the underbelly of an aircraft to look invisible from below, and hence serve as a camouflage for dangerous situations. Since it could take many, many years before we even see this technique in salons, check out the researchers' paper published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications to read more about the technology.