British troops are testing a Harry Potter-style “invisibility cloak” in the US that allows them to hide from the enemy, with soldiers hailing it as a “brilliant piece”.
In field trials conducted at the US Army’s centre for experimental warfare techniques at Fort Benning, Georgia, British soldiers from the 3rd Battalion The Rifles tried using a camouflage sheet which allows them to hide even from infrared and heat-searching devices.
The material, known as Vatec, can also be moulded into shapes to match the terrains. The participants reported that they could not be seen even when other soldiers, who acted as the enemy, tried to search for them.
Even more advanced technology is being developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Illinois. These ‘metamaterials’ attempt to replicate the special ability of cephalopods, such as the octopus and squid, to blend in with the environment.
The skin of cephalopods contains pigment-rich cells known as chromatophores that react to external factors, such as the threat of a predator, to change colour and hide from the danger.
Scientists, inspired from nature’s ability to camouflage, are working on a technology known as visual appearance modulation to develop a new material. One side of the material contains tiny light-sensitive cells that are sensitive to the colours of the environment.
Once colours are detected, electrical signals trigger the top layer to imitate those colours using heat-sensitive dyes. the entire process apparently happens in as fast as two to three seconds.
Engineering professor Xuanhe Zhao, at MIT, told the Daily Mail: “At the moment the military spends millions of dollars developing new camouflage patterns but they’re all static right now, they don’t change. If you put a pattern designed for the forest into the desert, it is not going to function. Dynamic camouflage would allow soldiers and their vehicles to adapt to their surroundings instantly.”
(With inputs from PTI)