Smart Camouflage from Squid

Studying active camouflage techniques seen in squid, allows University of Bristol researchers to model an artificial skin that can do the same thing. They hope this will lead to dynamic illumination in clothing and even cloaking.

Squid inspires camouflaging smart materials – [bristol.ac.uk]

Researchers from the University of Bristol have shown it is possible to create artificial skin that can be transformed at the flick of a switch to mimic one of nature’s masters of camouflage, the squid.

The research team, from the University’s Department of Engineering Mathematics, have designed a smart materials system, inspired by biological chromatophores, which creates patterns that change and morph over time and mimic biological patterning.

The paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, describes the design, mathematical modelling, simulation and analysis of a dynamic biomimetic pattern generation system.

The researchers have shown the artificial skin, made from electroactive dielectric elastomer, a soft, compliant smart material, can effectively copy the action of biological chromatophores. Chromatophores are small pigmented cells embedded on cephalopods skin which can expand and contract and that work together to change skin colour and texture.

Hiding the squid: patterns in artificial cephalopod skin – [royalsocietypublishing.org]

Abstract

Cephalopods employ their chromomorphic skins for rapid and versatile active camouflage and signalling effects. This is achieved using dense networks of pigmented, muscle-driven chromatophore cells which are neurally stimulated to actuate and affect local skin colouring. This allows cephalopods to adopt numerous dynamic and complex skin patterns, most commonly used to blend into the environment or to communicate with other animals. Our ultimate goal is to create an artificial skin that can mimic such pattern generation techniques, and that could produce a host of novel and compliant devices such as cloaking suits and dynamic illuminated clothing. This paper presents the design, mathematical modelling and analysis of a dynamic biomimetic pattern generation system using bioinspired artificial chromatophores. The artificial skin is made from electroactive dielectric elastomer: a soft, planar-actuating smart material that we show can be effective at mimicking the actuation of biological chromatophores. The proposed system achieves dynamic pattern generation by imposing simple local rules into the artificial chromatophore cells so that they can sense their surroundings in order to manipulate their actuation. By modelling sets of artificial chromatophores in linear arrays of cells, we explore the capability of the system to generate a variety of dynamic pattern types. We show that it is possible to mimic patterning seen in cephalopods, such as the passing cloud display, and other complex dynamic patterning.

SEE ALSO:
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Skintronics

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