Squid-inspired stick-on camo to let future soldiers evade infrared

The solder of the future may be able to sneak into enemy-held locations and evade opposing forces by wearing disposable stick-on camo – based on squid biology – that renders them undetectable to night vision-enabling infrared cameras and sensors.

Although not yet ready for use, the technology has been presented by its inventors from the University of California at Irvine, who believe it has considerable potential for use in the field.

“Soldiers wear uniforms with the familiar green and brown camouflage patterns to blend into foliage during the day, but under low light and at night, they’re still vulnerable to infrared detection,” said lead researcher Dr Alon Gorodetsky.

“We’ve developed stickers for use as a thin, flexible layer of camo with the potential to take on a pattern that will better match the soldiers’ infrared reflectance to their background and hide them from active infrared visualization.”

squid-camo

Image courtesy of the American Chemical Society, who will have the research presented to them at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition today.

With an appearance and texture similar to sticky tape, but coated with a reflective protein, the camo is designed to stick to the fabric camp uniforms of soldiers.

Known as “invisibility stickers”, they would be worn only when needed, and are designed to quickly be added or removed as required: the team envision soldiers carrying a roll of the camo with their kit, ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

Although not the most sophisticated solution to camouflage, the stickers are designed to be very cheap to produce, making them an appealing way for cash-strapped militaries to provide ground troops with infrared-proof camouflage.

“We’re going after something that’s inexpensive and completely disposable,” added Gorodetsky. “You take out this protein-coated tape, you use it quickly to make an appropriate camouflage pattern on the fly, then you take it off and throw it away.”

The protein coating the infrared-resistant surface is known as reflectin, and is also found in the camouflage-inducing cells of squid, called iridocytes.

The researchers saw squid biology as key to producing the infrared-resistance capabilities, and were able to identify the reflectin and reproduce it using bacteria.

However, finding a workable way to trigger the light-reflecting properties of reflectin on the camo has been more challenging.

The researchers first tried exposing the film to acetic acid vapors, which works in that it makes the film invisible to infrared cameras but would be a nightmare in the field.

“What we were doing was the equivalent of bathing the film in acetic acid vapors – essentially exposing it to concentrated vinegar,” said Gorodetsky. “That is not practical for real-life use.”

Now the researchers are working on a solution that stretches the material to make it infrared-proof, and also allows multiple stickers to respond in unison.

However, the team believe that the stickers could also be used to trap or release body heat in clothes if re-tuned to a different infrared wavelength, meaning this squid-inspired technology could form the climate-adapting clothing of tomorrow.


Featured image courtesy of Katarzyna Mazurowska / Shutterstock.com.


 

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Juno mission: Jupiter’s magnetic field is even weirder than expected

It has long been known that Jupiter has the most intense magnetic field in the solar system, but the first round of results from NASA’s Juno mission has revealed that it is far stronger and more misshapen than scientists predicted.

Announcing the findings of the spacecraft’s first data-collection pass, which saw Juno fly within 2,600 miles (4,200km) of Jupiter on 27th August 2016, NASA mission scientists revealed that the planet far surpassed the expectations of models.

Measuring Jupiter’s magnetosphere using Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG) tool, they found that the planet’s magnetic field is even stronger than models predicted, at 7.766 Gaus: 10 times stronger than the strongest fields on Earth.

Furthermore, it is far more irregular in shape, prompting a re-think about how it could be generated.

“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and magnetic field investigation lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others.

An enhanced colour view of Jupiter’s south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset. Featured image courtesy of NASA/SWRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

At present, scientists cannot say for certain why or how Jupiter’s magnetic field is so peculiar, but they do already have a theory: that the field is not generated from the planet’s core, but in a layer closer to its surface.

“This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen,” said Connerney.

However, with many more flybys planned, the scientists will considerable opportunities to learn more about this phenomenon, and more accurately pinpoint the bizarre magnetic field’s cause.

“Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works,” added Connerney.

With each flyby, which occurs every 53 days, the scientists are treated to a 6MB haul of newly collected information, which takes around 1.5 days to transfer back to Earth.

“Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused by a fire hose of Jovian science, and there is always something new,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

A newly released image of Jupiter’s stormy south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

An unexpected magnetic field was not the only surprise from the first data haul. The mission also provided a first-look at Jupiter’s poles, which are unexpectedly covered in swirling, densely clustered storms the size of Earth.

“We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR) also threw up some surprises, with some of the planet’s belts appearing to penetrate down to its surface, while others seem to evolve into other structures. It’s a curious phenomenon, and one which the scientists hope to better explore on future flybys.

“On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system – one that every school kid knows – Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Bolton.

“If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”