Camouflage is one of the best pitfalls in nature. From squids that change the color of sea sand to brightly colored chameleons, natural camouflage is a powerful evolutionary skill to avoid predators.
But unlike our animal counterparts, humans are usually very untalented in the art of this disguise. Stealth wildlife photographers can wear jackets with green and brown spots, but they are never as dynamic and flexible as squids and octopuses. In other words, until now.
In a new study published Monday in the National Academy of Sciences journal Proceedings, a team of researchers designed a new kind of camouflage technology that could change someone’s appearance using only light. Borrowed from cephalopod biology, this light-driven technology works by creating and alleviating wrinkles in color films and scattering color information.
Researchers were able to camouflage a variety of objects, including those designed to mimic bugs. Maetal. / PNAS
The authors write that this low-cost technology could be particularly useful in developing dynamic and responsive military technology that goes beyond camouflage clothing.
Camouflage has a wide range of uses in the natural, engineering, and military fields, and the author writes in his dissertation. This work demonstrates a viable strategy for adaptive visible camouflage based on light-driven dynamic surface wrinkles.
What’s New Designing camouflage technology isn’t a new idea, but the author writes that it’s its low-tech approach that sets their work apart.
To date, many adaptive camouflage materials and systems have been reported, the authors write.
However, most dynamic camouflage systems operate in an active form and require additional mechanical or electrical stimulation, as well as external sensors. These requirements add to the complexity and mass of the design, resulting in a clumsy and unsightly look. In addition, high supply voltages increase energy consumption.
This team’s technology works using only sunlight, instead of relying on additional power supplies and sensors.
Importance At this time, the main use of this technology is in the development of next-generation military camouflage technology that may help reduce the loss of life in combat.
When the wrinkled surface is exposed to light, the color is visible. However, when the light hits a flat material, it is camouflaged. TianjiaoMa
The author writes that camouflage allows devices or robots to seamlessly blend into their environment, enabling effective environment and species monitoring. [Additionally,] Reconnaissance and anti-reconnaissance play an important role in the viability of a target on the battlefield. Camouflage helps military objects avoid detection by enemies, resulting in less casualties.
In addition to military applications, the authors write that the technology could also include consumer technology applications such as smart displays, information storage, and anti-counterfeiting technologies.
To create animal-like skin for their camouflage technology, researchers have created sandwiches of two different film types: a hard polymer film and a soft substrate layer mixed with pigments.
This soft, pigmented layer expands and contracts when exposed to light waves, and the mismatch between the states of these two layers causes reversible wrinkles on the skin. From there, determining whether the skin looks colorful or hidden was a simple optics trick of light-scattering science.
By shining light on a small sample of their camouflage film, it blended seamlessly into the background of the leaves. Maetal. / PNAS
When everything was crumpled, the team noticed that the light was strongly scattered from the surface. Considering the light scattering of cut diamond and flat glass, it is thought that the surface area scattered was large. In this wrinkled state, the skin showed a bright color.
However, when the wrinkles were flattened, the skin became tinged with the surrounding color and instead effectively camouflaged.
Next Steps Currently, this technology has only been proven on a small scale, but the team will continue to scale and develop.
One potential path for growth is skin color sensing and dynamic adaptability. Currently, the default background color for flatskin is pre-programmed for the surrounding environment. In the future, this technology may be able to intelligently match the surrounding colors instead.
Summary: Camouflage is widespread in the natural, engineering, and military fields. Dynamic surface wrinkles allow on-demand control of reflected optical signals in the material and may provide alternatives for achieving adaptive camouflage. Here, a two-layer system containing anthracene-containing copolymer (PAN) and pigment-containing poly (dimethylsiloxane) (pigment-PDMS) is used to perform adaptive visible camouflage based on light-driven dynamic surface wrinkles. Shows the strategy. In this system, wrinkles can be removed by the thermal expansion of the pigment-PDMS caused by the photothermal effect. Wrinkles on the dynamic surface of a multi-wavelength light drive can adjust light scattering and PAN film interference color visibility. As a result, the colors captured by the observer can switch between an exposed state that is distinct from the background and a camouflage state that resembles the surroundings. The two-layer wrinkle system for adaptive visible camouflage is simple to configure, easy to operate, versatile, and exhibits in-situ dynamic characteristics without external sensors or additional stimuli.
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