Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, in a study published in the journal Advanced Materials, report creating a biomimetic infrared camouflage coating inspired by Loliginidae, also known as pencil squids or your everyday calamari.
The team produced reflectin, a structural protein essential in the squid's ability to change color and reflect light, in common bacteria and used it to make thin, optically active films that mimic the skin of a squid.
The film's color and reflectance can shift, allowing it to disappear and reappear when visualized with an infrared camera, a university release reported Monday.
Military forces use infrared detection equipment extensively for night vision, navigation, surveillance and targeting.
"Our approach is simple and compatible with a wide array of surfaces, potentially allowing many simple objects to acquire camouflage capabilities," chemical engineering and materials science Professor Alon Gorodetsky said.
It's a step toward developing a material that will self-reconfigure in response to an external signal, he said.
"Our long-term goal is to create fabrics that can dynamically alter their texture and color to adapt to their environments," he said. "Basically, we're seeking to make shape-shifting clothing -- the stuff of science fiction -- a reality."
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