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article imageOctopus skin inspires sophisticated camouflage sensors

By Tim Sandle     Aug 22, 2014 in Science
Cephalopod skin inspires engineers to design sheets of adaptive camouflage sensors. Inspired by the octopus, researchers have created sheets of sensors with a temperature-sensitive dye to mimic cephalopod camouflage.
The newly designed sensor-laden sheets used the octopus biology of blending into backgrounds to automatically sense and adapt to their environments without any external user input.
Cephalopod skins are quite remarkable. The animals use a three-layered system for rapid camouflage: A top layer of pigmented chromatophores change color in response to signals from underlying muscles and nerves, a middle layer of light-reflecting cells can be turned on and off within seconds, and a bottom layer of white cells, which provide a bright backdrop to control the contrast of patterns.
Furthermore, octopus skin also contains photosensitive cells that detect light and patterns without relying on feedback from the eyes or brain.
To imitate these features, National Geographic reports that researchers devised an array of small, multi-layered grids that included a temperature-sensitive dye to mimic the chromatophores; diodes to recreate the muscle signals; a thin layer of bright, white silver; and light sensing diodes to replace the photosensitive cells. When the photodiodes sensed incoming light, they trigger the muscle-mimicking diodes to heat up the dye. Within seconds, the dye switches from black to colorless to reveal the white layer below, thus enabling quick-changing patterns of black and white. This heralds the promise of sophisticated camouflage for military and civilian use,
The study was led by John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The findings have been published in the journal PNAS. The paper is titled "Adaptive optoelectronic camouflage systems with designs inspired by cephalopod skins."
More about camouflage sensors, Camouflage, Octopus
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