Researchers are using a material inspired by octopus skin to make adaptive camouflage that changes in real time to best blend in with one’s surroundings, according to National Geographic’s Ed Yong (via ValueWalk’s Michael Ide).
For now, a prototype of this technology only works in black and white, but lead researchers Cunjiang Yu at the University of Houston and John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say they’re close to working out the kinks currently preventing them from using more colourful displays.
Here’s a GIF of an octopus coming out of camo mode:
While octopuses can flex this covert ability thanks to three layers of cells capable of producing two colours of pigment each, researchers are going a different route. From ValueWalk:
Instead of trying to copy the cells and muscles behind nature’s camouflage, Yu and Rogers have reverse engineered something that gives a similar effect. Their top layer has a dye that is either black or transparent, depending on temperature, while the second, passive layer mimics the leucophores giving off a constant white light, and the bottom layer is a diode connected to a light sensor, heating up the dye in response to light.
The effect is that when a light is shone on the material, it automatically changes to match the light’s pattern within about a second.
John Rogers, one of the authors of the study, told Newsweek that he and his team are working on getting the material to turn different colours. According to one interested art professor in Chicago, this technology could be applied to fashion — but since wearers want to stand out and not blend in, a dress made from this material could provide a kind of “anti-camouflage” to ensure they stick out in the crowd.
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