U.S. Army experts are trying to embed microscopic electromechanical machines in paint that could detect and heal cracks and corrosion in the bodies of combat vehicles, as well as give vehicles the chameleon-like quality of rapidly altering camouflage to blend in with changing operating environments.

Unlike today’s paint coatings on battlefield vehicles, Army experts seek to develop paints with the ability to self-correct because of changing circumstances and tell the user of potential anomalies such as corrosion or adhesion problems.

Today’s conventional paints are labor intensive to apply, and potentially hazardous to the people working with them, Army officials say. In addition, most of these coatings need to be touched-up by hand, which can hide damage to the metal or other substrate material.