In not so distant future, you may be able to use an auxiliary skin to balance your body temperature in response to outside heat, a group of scientists at the University of Bristol claim on the basis of a new study on how some animals can camouflage at will.
Animals such as squid, cuttlefish, octopus and zebrafish can change colours to avert danger or as a psychological response to stress or mood swings. They also use camouflage to good effect when attracting potential mates or dealing with adverse weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold.
Observing certain types of animal camouflage, the University of Bristol team have developed a technology grounded on soft robotics – a field of study that comprises organic chemistry, the science of soft materials and robotics.
The basic purpose of the study was to develop artificial muscles by blending bio-mimicry and robotics, informed Dr Jonathan Rossiter of Artificial Intelligence Research Group at the Department of Engineering Mathematics, the University of Bristol.
“Where conventional robots are rigid and inflexible, we focus instead on the soft structures that nature is so good at making”, Dr Rossiter said, explaining that artificial muscles help cephalopods change colours by activating the creature’s skin cells.
To artificially reproduce the mimicry effects of some organisms, scientists connected “smart” electro-active polymeric materials to a circuit and applied voltage. The artificial muscles were found mimicking natural muscular contraction, which led the researchers to believe that intelligent use of natural fibres can pave the path for developing of colour-changing attires and even skins.