Inspired by Squid, Engineers Create ‘Invisibility’ Material


(US News)Engineers at the University of California, Irvine have created invisibility material inspired by vanishing squid and disappearing Hollywood dinosaurs.

“We were inspired both by science fiction and science fact – seeing dinosaurs disappear and reappear under an infrared camera in ‘Jurassic World’ and seeing squid filmed underwater do similar things,” engineering professor and co-author Alon Gorodetsky said in a press release. “So we decided to merge those concepts to design a really unique technology.”

The thin material, according to findings published Friday in the journal Science, can instantly change the way it reflects heat. It is made up of aluminum, plastic and sticky tape. When pulled apart by hand or shocked with voltage, it transforms from a wrinkled gray material to a glassy surface in under a second. This makes the material invisible to infrared night vision and allows the material to regulate its temperature.

Researchers say potential uses for the material include superior camouflage for military troops and insulation for spacecraft, storage containers, emergency shelters, clinical care, and building heating and cooling systems.

Although products that reflect heat have existed for years, engineers involved in this research have created vastly improved versions with bioengineering. They drew inspiration from how squid and other cephalopods can almost instantly change their skin to blend in with their environment, according to the press release.

“Basically, we’ve invented a soft material that can reflect heat in similar ways to how squid skin can reflect light,” Gorodetsky said. “It goes from wrinkled and dull to smooth and shiny, essentially changing the way it reflects the heat.”

The team of engineers will now begin to scale the material into large sheets available for commercial use.