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Photos by Richard Baker, University of Rochester.

University of Rochester Associate Processor Chunlei Guo has developed a technique that uses a femtosecond laser to blast nanoscale features into the surface of a piece of metal–pretty much any metal. These tiny features interact selectively with white light to reflect a particular color–pretty much any color. It’s also possible to achieve a near-perfect black finish and iridescence. If the process can be made economical (it’s very slow at present, requiring about half an hour to treat a dime-sized area), it could be a complete game-changer when it comes to finishing metals. Guo gives the example of a bicycle factory that could use only a single laser to make parts of any color or color scheme.