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Drop that calamari, you terrorist!

Security consists of a series of competitive advances, in which someone comes up with a new advanced technology, and then someone else figures out a way to defeat that technology.

One of those technologies is infrared technology.

Soldiers spent centuries figuring out the best way to see enemies at night without being seen. Early methods, like carrying torches, were more dangerous for the torch-carrier than his target….

Advancing without seeing is pretty difficult, however, which means a technological solution is the way around it. Night vision goggles, the ones with that famous green filter, amplify available light, which can turn low visibility into high visibility. The problem comes with regular light sources, which night vision also amplifies to a blinding extreme.

Infrared, instead, focuses on a different part of the visual spectrum, and so is less affected by sudden changes in visible light.

And now some people have come up with a way to defeat infrared technology, by making things invisible to an infrared device.

However, they didn’t invent anything new. Instead, they looked to nature:

What can the U.S. military learn from a common squid? A lot about how to hide from enemies, according to researchers at UC Irvine’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

As detailed in a study published online in Advanced Materials, they have created a biomimetic infrared camouflage coating inspired by Loliginidae, also known as pencil squids or your everyday calamari.

Led by Alon Gorodetsky, an assistant professor of chemical engineering & materials science, 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.

With the appropriate chemical stimuli, the films’ coloration and reflectance can shift back and forth, giving them a dynamic configurability that allows the films to disappear and reappear when visualized with an infrared camera.

For more information, see the UC Irvine press release.

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