Scientists Create Thermal Camouflage Which Fools Infrared Cameras

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A new type of material – which is actually a thin, lightweight and flexible film, was developed by scientists. With this film, they can fool infrared cameras. If you place the film on a hot body, the infrared cameras see it as cool, and if you place it on cold items, the cameras see it warm. The film can also camouflage an object by making it look as if it’s the same temperature as the background.

One of the authors of the study, Coskun Kocabas (the University of Manchester) explains that they created the design by analyzing the cuttlefish, and its color-shifting capabilities. He and his colleagues in the US and Turkey have written their findings in the journal Nano Letters.

Using electricity, the film’s properties can be altered. The film can act like metal – it reflects radiation and cannot absorb or emit radiation.

They’re “Basically Changing Graphene Into Metal”

The team of researchers created the material using many components: a stack made of nylon, gold, and polyethylene – the latter being soaked in a liquid containing charged molecules, and multiple layers of graphene.

Graphene is the “wonder material” that emits heat in the form of radiation. When the device is placed on a human’s hand, the heat gained from the hand will be emitted as infrared light, so when you point a thermal camera to the device, the person’s hand can be seen in the image. But here comes the next step.

If you apply a voltage on the device, the charged molecules in the polyethylene layer get incorporated within the graphene layers, reducing the level of infrared light emitted by the graphene, explains Kocabas:

“They go into the graphene and they change [the] conductivity of graphene and they change [the] optics of graphene. We are basically changing graphene into metal.”

When the team applied three volts to the film, on the infrared camera, the person’s hand became invisible. For the moment, they can make the system work at temperatures between 25C and 38C degrees.

Kocabas explains that the new device can have many uses:

“One obvious application is of course camouflage, but the novelty in this is it is adaptive camouflage.”

However, the material can be used to cover radiators on satellites to reflect heat when they face the sun and emit the heat in excess when they face deep space.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere