Materials inspired by disappearing Hollywood dinosaurs and real-life shy squid have been invented by UCI engineers, according to new findings in Science.
The thin swatches can quickly change how they reflect heat, smoothing or wrinkling their surfaces in under a second after being stretched or electrically triggered. That makes them invisible to infrared night vision tools or lets them modulate their temperatures.
Potential uses include better camouflage for troops and insulation for spacecraft, storage containers, emergency shelters, clinical care, and building heating and cooling systems.
Made of sandwiches of aluminum, plastic, and sticky tape, the material transforms from a wrinkled grey to a glossy surface when it is either pulled manually or zapped with voltage.
Products that reflect heat, such as emergency blankets, have existed for decades. But in the past several years, inventors in Gorodetsky's lab and others have pushed to create dramatically improved versions via bio-inspired engineering. One focus has been to imitate how squid and other cephalopods can nearly instantaneously change their skin to blend into their surrounding environment.