Artificial muscles can make the wearer disappear, according to new research. Scientists have mimicked the processes used by zebrafish to create these visual effects.
AP Photo/Ed Wray
Scientists have created a soft, stretchy artificial muscle that can blend with its environment at the flick of a switch, mimicking the camouflage abilities of squid and zebrafish.
In a new study, detailed in the current issue of the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, the team showed how the achievement might be used to weave "smart clothing" that can make their wearers seem to disappear, a la the Predator aliens.
"We have taken inspiration from nature's designs and exploited the same methods to turn our artificial muscles into striking visual effects," said leader Jonathan Rossiter of the University of Bristol in the UK.
The artificial muscles are based on color-changing cells known as chromatophores, which are found in amphibians, fish, reptiles, and cephalopods such as squids.
A typical color-changing cell in a squid has a central sac containing granules of pigment. The sac is surrounded by a series of muscles and when the cell is ready to change color, the brain sends a signal to the muscles and they contract. The contracting muscles make the central sacs expand, generating the optical effect which makes the squid look like it is changing color. [Researchers Look to Octopuses for Ultimate Camouflage]
The researchers mimicked the fast expansion of these muscles using dielectric elastomers (DEs), a so-called smart material that expands when zapped with an electric current.