Squids are intelligent, somewhat mystifying creatures whose brains have a complexity level similar to dogs and the astounding adaptation of camouflage. Their bodies are covered in special pigment-filled cells called chromatophores that expand and contract in light, enabling them to change color and blend in with their surroundings.
Funnily enough, it was the mechanics of this camouflage ability that inspired researchers to invent an adaptive temperature-controlling material.
Squid skin, keeping things hot or cold
The team of engineers and researchers from UC Irvine developed an infrared-reflecting metallized polymer film looking at the relationship between light and the chromatophores in squids’ skin. The chromatophores’ reactions to light can make them change color and position. This controls the amount of light and heat that passes through the material.
“The metal islands in our composite material are next to one another when the material is relaxed and become separated when the material is stretched, allowing for control of the reflection and transmission of infrared light or heat dissipation,” says Alon Gorodetsky, associate professor at the University of California, Irvine.
The development methods of this material have also enabled it to be produced at almost any imaginable scale. It has many applications as well, being able to be made into coffee cups, clothes, tent fabrics, etc. In fact, the team originally tested their material’s insulation ability in the form of a coffee cup and found that it could control the cooling of the coffee.
Benefiting humans and the environment
The material will also be easy on the environment.
“The composite material can be recycled in bulk by removing the copper with vinegar and using established commercial methods to repurpose the remaining stretchable polymer,” says the study’s lead author, Mohsin Badshah.
An environmentally kind, easy-to-make, easy-to-reuse, and scalable squid skin like this could come in enormously handy in a variety of forms in the future were adapting to changing temperatures will become a must.