Scientists are using camouflage abilities found in octopi and other cephalopods to help develop color-changing technology with a variety of applications
Researchers from the University of Houston and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a type of camouflage technology that mimics how certain sea creatures change color in the wild. Particular cephalopods (such as squid and octopus) have this ability and use it not only to help blend in with their surroundings, but to communicate with other members of their species. The findings of this study have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which was released yesterday.
The team developed flexible sheets of light sensors that were imbedded with a temperature-sensitive dye. This dye can automatically sense its surroundings and adapt its color to best suit its environment- changing from opaque to colorless in response to temperatures above 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius). “These devices are capable of producing black-and-white patterns that spontaneously match those of the surroundings, without user input or external measurement,” the team members documented in their research.
The color-changing elements in this technology act like chromatophores- tiny pigment-containing organs in cephalopods that can reflect light. The reflective background react like leucophores, which are white chromatophores found in some cephalopod species. The motors act like chromatophore-regulating muscles, and the light sensor acts like structures that contain opsins- light-sensitive receptors involved in a cephalopod’s vision.
In their tests, the researchers were able to show that their technology was able to adapt to light-changing patterns in its surroundings within a 1 to 2 second time frame. They also programmed the material to produce several black-and-white patterns, including one that spelled out “U o I” for the University of Illinois.
Artificial systems like this one could help pave the way to adaptive camouflage technology that can be modified to best suit its environment and integrated into electronics. This application could be used in a variety of areas- including consumer, industrial, and military fields. For further viewing, check out this video of the technology in action.