Iranian Researcher Discovers Squid Skin Could be the Solution to Camouflage Material

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 10:34

An Iranian researcher, Leila Deravi, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern, has discovered that the chromatophore organs, which appear as hundreds of multi-colored freckles on the surface of a cephalopod’s body, contribute to fast changes in skin color.

Cephalopods—which include octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish—are masters of disguise. They can camouflage to precisely match their surroundings in a matter of seconds, and no scientist has quite been able to replicate the spectacle, Northeastern University official website reports.

The researchers discovered these granules have remarkable optical qualities and used them to make thin films and fibers that could be incorporated into textiles, flexible displays, and future color-changing devices.

Chromatophores come in shades of red, yellow, brown, and orange. They are similar to the freckles on human skin that appear over time. But in cephalopods, these freckles open and close within a fraction of a second to give rise to a continuously reconfiguring skin color. Underneath the chromatophores is a layer of iridophores that act as a mirror. Together, these organs reflect all colors of visible light.

By removing individual pigment particles from the squid, Deravi was able to explore the breadth of their capabilities as static materials. One particle is only 500 nanometers in size, which is 150 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Deravi’s team layered and reorganized the particles and found they could produce an expansive color pallet.

Her team also discovered the pigments can scatter both visible and infrared light. This enhances brightness and light absorption and affects how a final color is perceived. And when Deravi engineered a system that included a mirror—mimicking the layout of organs that squids have naturally—she was able to further enhance the perceived color through scattering light through and off the granules.

The researchers made spools of fibers from the squids’ pigment particles and are now exploring uses for the material. The fibers are so visually interesting that it’s not difficult to imagine weaving them into fabric for clothing or other art forms. But perhaps the most exciting possible application is wearable, flexible screens and textiles that are capable of adaptive coloration.


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