Camouflage is an important aspect for survival for many species in the wild.
Take for instance a chameleon which can change its skin colour to blend in with its environment, or an octopus which can change its body pattern to become less visible to predators. Their own stealth is also increased in the process, allowing species to observe their prey from a close distance without being spotted. This seamless transition from one environment to another is something which has inspired New York scientists to develop within our own technology.
A recent project at Cornell University has developed a revolutionary stretchable material that can be programmed to morph into a specific shape. This specialised material created from mesh and adapted stretched material, allows a variety of shapes to be formed, accomplished through inflating certain parts of the material to give the desired shape.
Unsurprisingly, the concept of this technology has caught the attention of the Army Research Office, who provided funding for the material development for the project. This could be particularly useful in drone production allowing drones to merge in with their surroundings, making the drone undetectable by eye. If the drone had to change position, the camouflage could simply be reprogrammed with the drone’s colour mimicking its new environment.
Robotic equipment could also benefit where not only is advanced camouflage provided but arm attachments could be inflated/deflated as required for particular tasks.
This technology is not just limited to military use but is also applicable for modern smart devices. Imagine having a smart phone that could change colour based on the weather, your mood or the ability to change texture at the click of a button.
Physics professor Itai Cohen, explains the possibilities around the home, “One idea we’ve had is to take a sheet of rubber, send it along with a two-part polyurethane foam that becomes stiff, and people can inflate the rubber with the foam so that it becomes a stiff structure – like furniture”. This concept could see a new meaning given to the term ‘flat-packed furniture’, enabling rapid assembly of sofas, tables and chairs.
The possibilities for this technology are literally endless from military to domestic use. No doubt more development over the next few years will improve the technology further and put colour changing devices on the market. One thing is for certain, it would make finding your phone in the morning a little bit more difficult as it cleverly camouflages in with its surroundings.
You can find the full results published for this impressive project in Science, “Stretchable surfaces with programmable 3D texture morphing for synthetic camouflaging skins”, Vol. 358, Issue 6360, pp. 210-214.