New York, Oct 15: Scientists have found a way to develop a synthetic “camouflaging skin” inspired by studying and modelling the real thing in octopus and cuttlefish. For the octopus and cuttlefish, instantaneously changing their skin colour and pattern to disappear into the environment is just part of their camouflage prowess. These animals can also swiftly and reversibly morph their skin into a textured, 3D surface, giving the animal a ragged outline that mimics seaweed, coral, or other objects it detects and uses for camouflage.
In a study the researchers reported development of synthetic tissue groupings that allow programmable, 2D stretchable materials to both extend and retract a range of target 3D shapes. The team’s pneumatically-activated material takes a cue from the 3D bumps, or papillae, that cephalopods such as octopus and cuttlefish can express in one-fifth of a second for dymic camouflage, and then retract to swim away. Papillae are examples of a muscular hydrostat, biological structures that consist of muscle with no skeletal support (such as the human tongue). “Engineers have developed a lot of sophisticated ways to control the shape of soft, stretchable materials, but we wanted to do it in a simple way that was fast, strong, and easy to control,” said lead study author James Pikul, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. (IANS)