A technological way to create temporary images in/on a head of hair

Everyone with a head of hair—not just the members of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS)—is likely to be intrigued by this new patent for creating images in/on a head of hair. Think of the images as nano-patterned temporary tattoos, if you like:

Hair treatment process providing dispersed colors by light diffraction,” US patent # US8607803, granted December 17, 2013 to Bruce Carvell Lamartine, E. Bruce Orler, Richard Matthew Charles Sutton, Shuangqi Song.  The patent document explains:

“The nano-patterned block can be incorporated into a hand held device similar to a common hair flatiron. A nano-patterned block may be suitably configured to provide a nano structured pattern in film coated hair to produce a rainbow of colors. A nano-patterned block can also be suitably configured to produce directionally specific images in the polymer coated hair. The net effect of applying the method to hair is that When the hair changes position relative to a dominant light source, such as sunlight or theatrical lights, the hair color and any images incorporated into the hair change as well. Different nano-patterned blocks may be used for different multiple color or image effects in the treated hair.”

Here’s detail from the patent:


The Albuquerque Journal reports:

LANL is not just nukes – lab gets temporary hair patent

There’s no telling what hair trends will be in the future, but if one day you see someone with the Declaration of Independence etched into their locks, it’s a pretty good bet that scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory had something to do with it. Product developers at LANL and Proctor and Gamble were recently awarded a U.S. Patent for a hair treatment process that would potentially allow someone to exhibit just about any image they want in their hair through light diffraction.

“Imagine a temporary tattoo for hair – that’s essentially what this is,” said Steve Stringer, a LANL employee who serves as industrial fellow to P&G. Stringer said the patented process involves cutting a nanopattern into the hair that diffracts incident light and disperses colors. The process itself requires no colorization, but is a natural occurrence. “If you look at a parrot or a butterfly and see brilliant colors, you’re not looking at pigment, you’re looking at light diffraction,” Springer said. “It’s not pigment, it’s not paint, it’s actually sunlight that’s being spread by diffraction….

(Thanks to investigator Gopinath Subramanian for bringing this to our attention.)