General Information

Mail: University of Houston
Cullen College of Engineering
E421 Engineering Bldg 2, 4722 Calhoun Rd, Houston, TX 77204-4007
Map & Driving Directions (includes parking information)
Email: info [at] egr [dot] uh [dot] edu

CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

News

Researchers Draw Inspiration for Camouflage System From Marine Life

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

By: 

Jeannie Kever
Cuttlefish
Cuttlefish

It could be a fun party trick – put your cell phone down on a table and watch it fade into the woodwork – or part of a lifesaving technology used by industry or the military.

Researchers have developed a technology that allows a material to automatically read its environment and adapt to mimic its surroundings. The technology is described in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cunjiang Yu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston and lead author of the paper, said the optoelectronic camouflage system was inspired by the skins of cephalopods, a class of marine animals including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, which can change coloration quickly, both for camouflage and as a form of warning.

Other researchers on the project include John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University.

Earlier camouflage systems didn’t automatically adapt, he said. “Our device sees color and matches it. It reads the environment using thermochromatic material.”

The prototype developed by the researchers works in black and white, with shades of gray, but Yu said it could be designed to work in the full color spectrum. Similarly, he said while the prototype is less than one-inch square, it can be easily scaled up for manufacturing.

The flexible skin of the device is comprised of ultrathin layers, combining semiconductor actuators, switching components and light sensors with inorganic reflectors and organic color-changing materials in such a way to allow autonomous matching to background coloration.

The researchers describe their work as including pixelated devices that include analogs to each of the key elements included in the skin of cephalopods, with two exceptions, the iridophores and central ocular organs.

While the most valuable applications would be for defense or industry, Yu said consumer applications such as toys and wearable electronics also could offer a market for such a technology.

Another possibility? Luxury carmakers now try to give a car’s occupants the sensation that the car has disappeared by deploying cameras to shoot videos on the passenger side of the car and using LED mats to display the view. Yu said this technology could be incorporated for a similar purpose.

Faculty: 

Department: 

Related News Stories

Spring Engineering Career Fair a Success

Making connections at Engineering Career Fair

Aside from attaining knowledge itself, most students attend college to find a path forward in their lives, searching for a career that suits them. At the Engineering Career Fair, that job is made easier as company representatives from the Houston area drop in to offer opportunities, mentor students and share stories of how they went from being a college student to a company employee.

Subsea Engineering’s “Passport to UH” is a Passport to Fun for Young Students

Sparking young minds at Passport to UH events

Engineering may not be elementary, but elementary-aged students can still enjoy engineering. And they did, en masse, during two Passport to UH events hosted by the Cullen College’s subsea engineering program.

On Jan. 20, baby engineers from Lamar ISD 5th grade classes gathered at UH during Subsea STEM Day, which encourages young students to become involved in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.