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'Invisibility Tape' Inspired by Color-Changing Squid (VIDEO)

First Posted: Mar 23, 2015 04:15 PM EDT

Squid are the ultimate at camouflage and now, scientists may have taken a page from their book. Using a protein that's key to a squid's color-changing body, researchers have designed "invisibility stickers" that could one day help soldiers disguise themselves.

"Soldiers wear uniforms with the familiar green and brown camouflage patterns to blend into foliage during the day, but under low light and at night, they're still vulnerable to infrared detection," said Alon Gorodetsky, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We've developed stickers for use 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."

In order to create these stickers, the researchers turned to squid skin. Squid skin features unusual cells known as iridocytes, which contain layers or platelets composed of a protein called reflectin. The squid uses a biochemical cascade to change the thickness of the layers and their spacing. This, in turn, affects how the cells reflect light and, therefore, the skin's coloration.

The researchers first coaxed bacteria to produce reflectin and then coated a hard substrate with the protein. Eventually, the scientists fabricated reflectin films on conformable polymer substrates, which are effective sticky tape. This tape can adhere to a range of surfaces, including cloth uniform. Its appearance can be changed by stretching, a mechanical trigger that may possibly be realistically used in military operations.

That's not to say that the material is ready for field use. However, in the future it's possible that the tape could be used by soldiers or security personnel and could be used to cover their uniforms as needed.

"We're going after something that's inexpensive and completely disposable," said Gorodetsky. "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."

Want to learn more? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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