Public Release: 

Material mimics 3-D camouflage abilities of an octopus

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Scientists have created a 2-D material that can morph into a 3-D structure and camouflage with its environment, similar to the camouflage abilities of an octopus and other cephalopods. In a related Perspective, Cecilia Laschi notes that this advancement is an important first step for robotic camouflage abilities, which could be helpful for studying animals in the wild and for military applications. Besides changing color, cephalopods have skin lined with erector muscles that can rapidly form a wide range of shapes. Here, James Pikul and his colleagues have mimicked this 3-D camouflage ability in an artificial material. The material consists of a fiber mesh embedded in a silicone rubber. The fiber mesh is layered in rings that constrain the material, preventing localized expansion while the rest of the material stretches during inflation. The mesh acts in a similar way to the muscles of an octopus, while the flexible rubber mimics its skin. The mesh fiber is laid out in a specific way to get the desired shape. The researchers demonstrate this transformation by creating artificial, "inflatable" rounded stones that blend into their surroundings. As well, they programmed a membrane to imitate the shape of the Graptoveria amethorum plant.


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