August 17, 2012 3:22:39 pm
Researchers have developed a soft robot that can hide from infrared cameras and either stand out or camouflage itself against a background.
Researchers from Harvard University developed a system inspired by octopus and squid that allows a soft robot to stand out from its surroundings.
“When we began working on soft robots,we were inspired by soft organisms,including octopi and squid,” Stephen Morin,first author said.
“One of the fascinating characteristics of these animals is their ability to control their appearance,and that inspired us to take this idea further and explore dynamic colouration,” Morin said.
“One of the most interesting questions in science is ‘Why do animals have the shape,and colour,and capabilities that they do? ” George Whitesides,one of the researchers said.
Just as with the soft robots,the “colour layers” used in the camouflage start as molds created using 3D printers.
Silicone is then poured into the molds to create micro-channels,which are topped with another layer of silicone. The layers can be created as a separate sheet that
sits atop the soft robots,or incorporated directly into their structure.
Once created,researchers can pump coloured liquids into the channels,causing the robot to mimic the colours and patterns of its environment.
By pumping heated or cooled liquids into the channels,researchers can camouflage the robots thermally (infrared colour). Other tests used fluorescent liquids that allowed the colour layers to literally glow in the dark.
Just as animals use colour change to communicate,Morin envisions robots using the system as a way to signal their position,both to other robots,and to the public.
The study was published in the journal Science.
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