A material imitating the ability of the octopus to change colour and skin texture in a matter of seconds has been engineered by a team of researchers. The latter purport that it is quite economical and can be used for many purposes other than military ones.
One of the wonders of nature is camouflage. Certain animal species have been endowed with the power to change their appearances such that they no more look like they normally do. some may change their colour, or skin patterns, while yet others can modify their skin texture, all with the aim of hiding into their environment to be inconspicuous from predators, or for signalling purposes – anything for survival, right? Some just do it better than others. One such category of animals includes the cephalopods, which is composed of octopuses, squids, anc cuttlefish. The latter are, in fact, really good at it. They change their skin colour and texture in an extremely short lapse of time: in even seconds. What if we were to reproduce that effect with the same level of precision?
Man has had the propensity to imitate nature’s phenomenons, for example, the camera which gives a glimpse into how the eyes work. Recently, a team of researchers have worked on producing a material that could deliver the same effect as that of cephalopods: making a material that is able to change its colour and texture at the same time by remote control. Ah, humans. Wanting to have a remote control for mostly everything. The paper has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
The living creatures are able to make the skin colour changes by the way of pigment sacs embedded in their skin. Alternate muscle contraction and relaxation are used to modify the shape of these tiny sacs. As the sacs change from being flat to inconspicuous circles, the colour changes accordingly. Also, the textures change via the same mechanism: from smooth to bumpy. This effect has been superimposed onto synthetic materials.
The synthetic material consists of a layer of electro-active elastomer, and is hence flexible. It has been made from readily available substances, such that it could be an affordable camouflage material. The authors of the paper suggest that it can not only be used for military purposes but also as display screens, and anti-fouling coatings for ships.