Imagine a fiber that changes colors when stretched.

Researchers from Harvard University and the U.K.’s University of Exeter not only imagined it, they created it, according to a report published Advanced Materials (and posted on PopSci).

The multilayer fiber turns from red to blue as it’s stretched.

The scientists took inspiration from a tropical plant called the “bastard hogberry” (no, really. The technical term “Margaritaria nobilis”). Apparently the plant doesn’t have much going for it nutritionally, but it can change colors to entice birds to eat it and then spread the bright blue bastard hogberry seeds around.

Photo from PopSci

Hogberry photo from

The plant’s color change is due to the way light bounces off the curved cells on the surface of the fruit. PopSci says it’s similar to the “the bright colors you can see in soap bubbles.” The scientists copied the surface pattern and the structural elements in making the fiber. Researchers say these stretch fibers could be used to make a shirt that changes color to alert the wearer about heat strain, which sounds a lot like ’80s-era Hypercolor shirts.

Hypercolor photo from NerdApproved

I’m sure there are several worthy health and safety applications for these fibers, but the PopSci commentator who begged “Please don’t implement this to skinny jeans” might have hit on the perfect fashion application.

Top photo:

Photo from, a website created by Danish soap bubble enthusiasts. You should see the videos.

Published Jan. 29, 2013 at