Octopus skin inspires versatile new camouflage material
MIAMI: The octopus is a master of disguise because it can stretch, bend and make its skin take on new shapes. Inspired by these intelligent cephalopods, researchers said on Thursday they had invented a new kind of material that can act similarly.
United States engineers described their product, a siliconbased skin with a stretchable surface capable of programmed, three-dimensional texture morphing, in the journal Science.
“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 author James Pikul, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics at University of Pennsylvania.
“We were drawn by how successful cephalopods were at changing their skin texture, so we studied and drew inspiration from the muscles that allowed cephalopods to control their texture, and implemented these ideas into a method for controlling the shape of soft, stretchable materials,” he said.
The material shifts shape using 3-D bumps that are similar to the papillae, the small protuberances that octopi and cuttlefish can express in a fifth of a second to camouflage themselves.
The skin of the new material grows into new, programmable shapes when air is inflated in fibres embedded in its coating.
Researchers said it might one day be used as a coating for soft robots to study animals in their natural environments. The expandable skin could hide and protect them from attack. AFP