Adaptive camouflage skin, inspired by octopuses

A team of scientists led by Cunjiang Yu at the University of Houston and John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign have developed a flexible pixellated sheet that can detect light falling upon it and change its pattern to match. So far, its large pixels can change from black to white and back again. It’s a far cry from an octopus’s skin, but it does share some of the same qualities. For example, it changes colour automatically and relatively quickly—not cephalopod-quick, but within a second or so.

“This is by no means a deployable camouflage system but it’s a pretty good starting point,” says Rogers. Eventually, his team are working towards adaptive sheets that can wrap around solid objects and alter their appearance. These could be used to make military vehicles that automatically camouflage themselves, or clothes that change colour depending on lighting conditions.


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