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New camouflage coating uses squid protein to become invisible to infrared, night vision

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Night Vision goggles (Wikimedia commons)
Night Vision goggles (Wikimedia commons)

Researchers at UC Irvine have created a new camouflage coating inspired by the pencil squid that is invisible to infrared cameras. The university developed the coating with military applications in mind — a tool to hide from enemies. Alon Gorodetsky, an assistant professor at Irvine who led the effort to project, says in a statement that since what his team has made is a film, it can easily be applied to all sorts of materials and surfaces that may need to be hidden. The team originally detailed its findings in a study published by Advanced Materials.

"We're seeking to make shape-shifting clothing."

"Our long-term goal is to create fabrics that can dynamically alter their texture and color to adapt to their environments," Gorodetsky says. "Basically, we're seeking to make shape-shifting clothing — the stuff of science fiction — a reality." The team's film uses a protein called reflectin that gives squid the ability to change color and reflect light, but in order to work, the coating has to be used in concert with different chemicals.

Gorodetsky and his team went for infrared invisibility because night vision technology relies on infrared detection to see in the dark. But, in order for military forces to be able to practically use the material as needed, activating the infrared invisibility needs to be easier. The university described the film as a first step toward a material that isn't reliant on outside chemicals — something that will ideally be able to turn on and off its infrared invisibility as a user desires.