Science

Soft robot inspired by the chameleon can mimic its surroundings

Researchers suggest their findings could have implications for the next generation of artificial camouflage.

A chameleon-inspired soft robot that can change colour in real time to match its background has been created by scientists.

The research may have implications for next-generation wearable camouflage technology, they say.

Artificial camouflage tends to be based on imitating natural camouflage present in the living environment and has been observed in a number of species, such as the chameleon.

Artificial camouflage devices need to be able to convey a wide range of colour that can be controlled and changed on demand, but this is difficult to achieve.

Seung Hwan Ko, of Seoul National University, worked with colleagues to apply a new strategy to the development of artificial camouflage.

They used integrated thermochromic liquid crystal layers with vertically stacked, patterned silver nanowire networks.

Along with colour sensors and feedback control systems, the authors fabricated Artificial Chameleon Skin and applied it to a soft-bodied robot.

They found the robot could detect the local background colour and change and transition its colour to match its surroundings in real time.

The authors write: “Combined with the active control system and sensing units, the complete device chameleon model successfully retrieves the local background colour and matches its surface colour instantaneously with natural transition characteristics to be a competent option for a next-generation artificial camouflage.”

The findings are reported in Nature Communications.

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Science