ERJ staff report (PR)
Cambridge, Massachusetts - Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Duke University have developed an elastomeric material that mimics the ability of squid and other cephalopods to change appearance and texture in different environments.
In a paper published in Nature Communications journal, the material is said to comprise a layer of electro-active elastomer that could be processed via standard manufacturing processes and using readily available materials.
Cephalopods, which include octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, change colour by using muscles to alter the shapes of tiny pigment sacs within the skin. The new synthetic material changes its fluorescence and texture together, in response to a change in voltage applied to it.
“The texturing and deformation of the elastomer further activates special mechanically responsive molecules embedded in the elastomer, which causes it to fluoresce or change colour in response to voltage changes,” explains Stephen Craig, professor of chemistry at Duke University.
“Once you release the voltage, both the elastomer and the molecules return to their relaxed state — like the cephalopod skin with muscles relaxed,” added Craig.
Target applications include advanced military camouflage’ material, though the developers also see potential in other areas, including large, flexible display screens.
Another interesting possible use is as a marine anti-fouling coatings, where the the texture-changing properties are used to remove barnacles and other such material from surfaces.
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