Synthetic 'Squid Skin' For Camouflage On The Way

Cephalopods like squids are able to change the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend in to their environment; this ability has aroused the envy and interest of scientists. A team of researchers led by Xuanhe Zhao of MIT and Duke University Professor of Chemistry Stephen Craig.

(Synthetic 'Squid Skin' For Camouflage)

Zhao... says the new material is essentially a layer of electro-active elastomer that could be quite easily adapted to standard manufacturing processes and uses readily available materials. This could make it a more economical dynamic camouflage material than others that are assembled from individually manufactured electronic modules.

While its most immediate applications are likely to be military, Zhao says the same basic approach could eventually lead to production of large, flexible display screens and anti-fouling coatings for ships.

The new synthetic material is a form of elastomer, a flexible, stretchable polymer. “It changes its fluorescence and texture together, in response to a change in voltage applied to it — essentially, changing at the flip of a switch,” says Qiming Wang, an MIT postdoc and the first author of the paper.

“We harnessed a physical phenomenon that we discovered in 2011, that applying voltage can dynamically change surface textures of elastomers,” Zhao says.

“The texturing and deformation of the elastomer further activates special mechanically responsive molecules embedded in the elastomer, which causes it to fluoresce or change color in response to voltage changes,” Craig adds. “Once you release the voltage, both the elastomer and the molecules return to their relaxed state — like the cephalopod skin with muscles relaxed.”

Science fiction writers have long been fascinated with the idea of adaptive camouflage clothing. For example, consider the chameleon cloth from George RR Martin's 1976 novel The Dying of the Light, the Chameleon Battle-Dress from Gordon R. Dickson's 1960 novel Dorsai! and the Mimetic Polycarbon Suit from William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer.

Via The Mary Sue.

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