Octopus and Cuttlefish can camouflage themselves in a remarkable fashion by changing the hue of their skin to reflect their surroundings. Soldiers will now be able to do something similar by blending themselves with the surroundings and becoming indiscernible.
It may not be as perfect as the Alien in Predator of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. It may not match the Octopus or the Cuttlefish which have the ability to expand or contract the pigment cells which scattered all over their body , changing color or texture to seamlessly blend into the rocks, sand or corral in the sea.
Experts at the Rogers Research Group hope to replicate something similar in synthetic material. John Rogers, Head of materials research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign feels that his group has put in place all the key elements that are needed for the task.
Rogers and his team have created a material comprised of stacked and very thin dye layers that are divided up into pixels. The dye is dark colored but becomes transparent when there is a spike in temperature. Beneath the dye is a layer of reflective silver which appears white to naked eye. Below the reflective silver is a layer of heating diodes. The key to this technology is a sheet of photodetectors which runs throughout the material.
When light strikes the photodetector it sends a signal to the diodes which essentially begins to heat the dye and it becomes lighter. Thus the pixels can match the pattern of hues which they are exposed to. The pixels change rapidly and adapt to new patterns easily much akin to the cuttlefish. However the sheet only changes from dark to white and this does not make it conspicuous.
Rogers told BBC news, “It’s nothing close to being ready to deploy, in a military setting or anything else. It’s really a beginning point, to focus on the engineering science around how you might create systems that have this type of function.”