Camouflage is one of the most important characteristics that wildlife has developed for survival. Many predators use this ability to hunt down prey as well. It is the ability to use any combination of materials, colouration, or illumination for concealment. Animals use camouflage to either make them hard to see or to disguise themselves as something else. There are many well-known examples of camouflage. For example, polar bears, arctic fox, snowshoe hare have white colourations. This is to blend in with the snowy surroundings using concealing colouration camouflage. On the other hand, many animals living in forests, like deer and grizzly bears, are brown.
We, humans, took note of this ability and found it has since found use in warfare. The concept of military camouflage arose.It served the purpose of protection of personnel and equipment from observation by enemy forces. However, while military camouflage kept everything concealed from afar, new detection technologies also started arising. Today, countries use thermal tracking, which makes it very easy to detect anything that may be hidden from us in plain sight. Using thermographic cameras, we can easily obtain infrared heatmaps that show the differences in temperature between heat radiating bodies and their cooler surroundings. Hence, the race for developing thermal camouflage began.
Leila Deravi, assistant professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University, is leading one such research effort. She says that a pigment found in the skins of cephalopods like octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, could be key. Her team discovered that the pigments can scatter both visible and infrared light. The team’s findings show that this pigment has remarkable optical qualities. Therefore, these pigments can be used to make thin films and fibres that could be incorporated into textiles, flexible displays, and future colour-changing devices. One particle is only 500 nanometers in size, which is 150 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The team layered and reorganised the particles and found that they could produce an expansive colour pallet, which could potentially lead to new development in the field of optics in biology.