Science

Scientists Draw Inspiration from Squid for New Camouflage Combat Technology Called 'Invisibility Stickers'

By | Apr 13, 2015 05:16 AM EDT
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Reflectin

Reflectin tape under normal light (left) and under ultraviolet light where it is indistinguishable from a leaf.

Scientists look to improve the camouflaging abilities of soldiers by developing combat technology derived from one of the world's oldest organisms, the squid.

For millions of years, squids have swum in the waters of the Earth. They belong to one of the oldest organism groups, the cephalopods, which include octopus and cuttlefish.

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Scientists say the reason why squids still survive and thrive is because they have mastered the art of camouflage. Leaping off from this point, scientists have begun to develop technology that will help soldiers avoid any kind of infrared detection.

Researchers from the University of California used squid proteins to develop "invisibility stickers" that can be easily used by soldiers on the ground.

Alon Gorodetsky, assistant professor of chemical engineering and material sciences, say troops normally wear green and brown camouflage patterns to blend into foliage. They are, however, still vulnerable to infrared detection.

Focusing their attention on squid cells known as iridocytes, Gorodetsky and his team used a light-reflecting protein -- reflectin -- and synthesize it onto a packing tape-like surface to create the stickers.

Using any chemical or mechanical stimulus, the reflectin-coated stickers can be changed into any color needed.

Gorodetsky says the applications of the sticker are flexible. One example he gave is if a person were to put the stickers all over, the soldier would then look a certain way under optical visualization and a different way under infrared visualization.

This combat technology isn't yet ready to be used in combat areas as researchers are still working on developing an adaptive camouflage system that allows a group of stickers to work in sync, in turn responding to varying infrared wavelengths.

The research work was just presented at the 2015 American Chemical Society national meeting.

When speaking about the inspiration for it, Gorodetsky said inspiration could be drawn from natural systems that have been perfected over millions of years.

Adapting these systems for human use will take some time, however.


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