Octopus-inspired camouflage skin can evade infrared camera: study

Updated 2018-03-30 16:08:24 Xinhua

Scientists from University of California, Irvine, have developed an octopus-style camouflage skin that can evade detection by an infrared camera.

The study, published on Thursday in the journal Science, has shown a synthetic device with tunable infrared reflectivity, inspired by the cephalopod skin.

The new material could help hide objects from infrared cameras.

Infrared light is not visible to the human eye but is felt in the form of heat. Controlling light at this wavelength is desirable for a wide range of applications like developing camouflage platforms that might be useful in military operations.

To date however, it has been difficult to develop a camouflage device that can adjust to a changing environment, while maintaining other qualities, such as repeated use and a low working temperature range.

Engineering professor Alon Gorodetsky and his colleagues took inspiration from cephalopods such as squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish, which feature skin containing clusters of adaptive chromatophore pigment cells, as well light-reflecting cells, that can expand and contract.

Using a combination of special electrodes, wrinkled membranes and an infrared-reflective coating, the researchers created a synthetic device that mimics cephalopod skin.

As the membrane expands through the application of an electric current, the more light of a given wavelength is reflected.

When the device changes its form, its reflectance changes subsequently, so it managed to evade the infrared camera.

Gorodetsky told Xinhua: "The cephalopod cells of squid reflect visible light. But our artificial platforms translate many of the key natural capabilities of cephalopods from the visible to the infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum."

"We used only materials that work at room temperature (simple metals, oxides, and plastics) to make our devices," said Gorodetsky.

Gorodetsky's team analyzed its ability to "hide" from an infrared camera and they report that altering the reflectance of the device so that its apparent temperature changed by a mere 2 degree Celsius was sufficient to mask its existence from an infrared camera.

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