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Can you tell the color of the room with your eyes closed?
Can you create a rocky texture on your skin?
Can you really disappear?
Puzzled? Read along.
Marine animals like octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, and nautilus belong to a certain category of animals that have special characteristics. These animals do not have any defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. They are unarmored and swim naked in the vast open waters. Hence, they have developed extraordinary ways to protect themselves and throw away their predators.
Octopus and cuttlefish can create a rocky texture on their skins to blend in with the seabed rocks, they can create porcupine-like spikes to throw away predators, the can blend in with the neighboring corals, and just like chameleons, they can change their skin color to match the surroundings, effectively disappearing in the background. They can do so with the help of chromatophores (spots of certain colors) on their skins which can change their size to change the skin color. Octopus and cuttlefish are found in deep waters, so they can get away with camouflage techniques and have help from the seabed and corals. Squids are generally present in the open ocean. They don’t have the same advantages as octopus and cuttlefish. They only have blue ocean water at their disposal. So, they developed even more ingenious ways. They can control how light reflects from their skin using certain iridescent spots called iridophores. They can mimic the way sunlight filters down into the ocean, in other words, hiding in plain sight.
Scientists and researchers at the University of Houston have tried to replicate these phenomena and have developed a flexible, pixelated artificial skin which can change its color and blend into the surrounding within a matter of seconds without any human intervention. The skin consists of actuators, light sensors, reflectors, and color-changing materials that correspond to those chromatophore cells in cephalopods. “These devices are capable of producing black-and-white patterns that spontaneously match those of the surroundings, without user input or external measurement," the researchers wrote in their published paper. Solutions like this one have immense potential applications in the military for strategic warfare and in the consumer and apparel market.
Thank you, Cunjiang Yu, for your research and contribution to humanity.
Understanding nature and its meticulous efforts in the form of evolution of different species that thrive in different environments has given us millions of years of research and development, as we can call it. Hence, it only makes sense to take advantage of such an invaluable resource to design better products and solve many of our problems. Biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature to solve complex human problems. The terms "biomimetics" and "biomimicry" derive from Ancient Greek: βίος (bios), life, and μίμησις (mīmēsis), imitation, from μιμεῖσθαι (mīmeisthai), to imitate, from μῖμος (mimos), actor. The field of Biomimicry, as it is today, is largely the contribution of Janine Benyus, a biologist, author, and an innovation consultant.
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Thank you so much for reading!