Soldiers could learn a thing or two about camouflage from the stealthy squid, which is notorious for eerily blending into their surroundings.
A research team was able to produce reflectin, "a structural protein essential in the squid's ability to change color and reflect light" in a squid's skin a University of California, Irvine press release reported. They created small encasings on bacteria that mimicked the squid's changeable skin.
The thin film was created by depositing reflectin onto a layer of graphene oxide, which in turn was deposited on a strip of silica substrate. The oxide acted similarly to the reflectin-holding squid skin, which contrasts color-changing cells, according to a Chemistry World report.
The team then experimented with several substances reacted with the engineered "skin."
"You can swell these types of film and get them to shift their coloration,' Gorodetsky, said "so we screened different stimuli to see how far we can actually shift it across the visible and infrared spectrum."
The Scientists found that acetic vapor caused the skin to "swell" enough to deflect infrared radiation, causing the encased object to "disappear."
The films allowed the bacteria to appear and disappear when triggered with a chemical stimulus and seen through an infrared camera. Infrared vision is commonly used to help military personnel see at night, as well as "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," study leader Alon Gorodetsky, an assistant professor of chemical engineering & materials science, said.
Gorodetsky believes the breakthrough could lead to the creation camouflaging material that has the ability to change appearance from an external signal. The researchers are now working on how to trigger the change without the help of chemicals, the press release reported.
"Our long-term goal is to create fabrics that can dynamically alter their texture and color to adapt to their environments," Gorodetsky said. "Basically, we're seeking to make shape-shifting clothing - the stuff of science fiction - a reality."
"You wouldn't necessarily want to use acetic acid - it's effectively dousing yourself with very concentrated vinegar! We'd like to find another stimulus - perhaps something mechanical or electrical - to induce the same change in coloration," he said, Chemistry World reported.