August 26, 2012
Camo-bot — Science imitates the art of the octopus (video)
From the Wall Street Journal: "When it comes to camouflage, nature is light years ahead of human efforts. The octopus, for example, is a master at swiftly changing its color and shape. Stephen Morin of Harvard University has been trying to duplicate this natural quick-change ability with a soft-bodied robot. Dr. Morin upgraded a previous Harvard robot's back with a sheet of silicone containing a network of tiny tubes, each less than a half-millimeter wide. By pumping colored liquids through these 'microfluidic' channels, he can change the robot's color in about 30 seconds. He also has one-upped nature by using fluids that can make the camo-bot invisible to heat sensors, like those found in infrared cameras (the natural-world equivalent of which would be heat-sensitive bats or snakes)."
Caption for the YouTube video above, narrated by Stephen Morin: "Scientists have developed a soft, flexible robot that can change colors to blend in or stand out in its environment. Such devices may be useful for animal-behavior research or other activities using machines that aren't supposed to be noticed. Stephen Morin and colleagues at Harvard University describe the robot in the 17 August 2012 issue of Science (www.sciencemag.org)."
Below, the abstract of the paper published in Science.
Camouflage and Display for Soft Machines
Synthetic systems cannot easily mimic the color-changing abilities of animals such as cephalopods. Soft machines—machines fabricated from soft polymers and flexible reinforcing sheets—are rapidly increasing in functionality. This manuscript describes simple microfluidic networks that can change the color, contrast, pattern, apparent shape, luminescence, and surface temperature of soft machines for camouflage and display. The color of these microfluidic networks can be changed simultaneously in the visible and infrared—a capability that organisms do not have. These strategies begin to imitate the functions, although not the anatomies, of color-changing animals.
August 26, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Permalink
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