The squid may not seem like the most clever of creatures, but the invertebrate sea monster has a surprisingly advanced system for deflecting predators. Aside from the ink its famous for squirting to escape attacks, the squid is able to quickly camouflage, matching itssurrounding environment using light-reflective skin. Militaries have been searching for ways to blend into scenery for centuries–particularly today–in areas where high-tech detection methods like heat-scanning make traditional camouflage ineffective.
It turns out these sea-dwelling cephalopods has something to teach us about that. Researchers at University of California, Irvine invented a roll-on tape that mimics squid’s ability to reflect the same light as its surroundings, thus becoming invisible. Using a protein found in the squid called reflectin, these “invisibility stickers” could help soldiers remain unseen even by infrared scanners.
The stickers function as “a thin, flexible layer of camo with the potential to take on a pattern that will better match the soldiers’ infrared reflectance to their background and hide them from active infrared visualization,” said Dr. Alon Gorodetsky, who led the research team, in a press release. By changing the tape’s thickness, and affecting the way light interacts with it, it can be made to appear almost any color. When seen on an optical camera thicker tape would appear orange, while thinner tape would tend towards the blue side of the spectrum.
These stickers closely resemble packaging tape, and Gorodetsky says he hopes they will become nearly as commonplace. “We’re going after something that’s inexpensive and completely disposable,” he said. “You take out this protein-coated tape, you use it quickly to make an appropriate camouflage pattern on the fly, then you take it off and throw it away.” And because its a tape, the ways it can be applied is only limited by the imagination.
Gorodetsky says this product may make it to consumers, and maybe even be integrated into clothing–whether for fashion or protection, that remains to be seen. If the squid tape lives up to its potential it could revolutionize military strategy, but in the Snowden era, perhaps that should also give us a little bit of pause.
[via the [i]Washington Post[/i]]