Science Is Real Close to Developing Squid-like Color Changing Skin From Synthetic Materials
Nobody suspects a thing!
Some squids, octopuses, and other cephalopods are able to camouflage their bodies underwater by changing the color and texture of their skin, which is probably how they’re able to so successfully infiltrate our society and integrate themselves into human families as our octodads. But according to new research from MIT, humans are pretty close to creating our own version of cephalopod skin.
According to lead researcher Xuanhe Zhao, the newest form of this technology involves a layer of electro-active elastomer—meaning a flexible polymer with specially responsive molecules in it that react to applied voltage.
“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,” Duke University Professor of Chemistry Stephen Craig said in a press statement. “Once you release the voltage, both the elastomer and the molecules return to their relaxed state—like the cephalopod skin with muscles relaxed.”
The applications for such technology are endless, but the team at MIT have chosen to focus on how it could benefit the military (of course, the funding and support from U.S. Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, and Army Research Office probably affected that decision considerably). From the MIT press statement again:
While troops and vehicles often move from one environment to another, they are presently limited to fixed camouflage patterns that might be effective in one environment but stick out like a sore thumb in another. Using a system like this new elastomer, Zhao suggests, either on uniforms or on vehicles, could allow the camouflage patterns to constantly change in response to the surroundings.
“The U.S. military spends millions developing different kinds of camouflage patterns, but they are all static,” Zhao says. “Modern warfare requires troops to deploy in many different environments during single missions. This system could potentially allow dynamic camouflage in different environments.”
Perhaps I’ve been playing too much XCOM: Enemy Unknown lately, but that sounds pretty rad. We’re basically one step closer to creating our own predators!