A team of engineers has invented a material that can help humans become invisible to infrared night vision tools.
Based on fictional dinosaurs and squids, the material developed by engineers at the University of California, Irvine, could protect soldiers and structures, according to new findings published in the journal Science.
The thin swatches can quickly change how they reflect heat, smoothing or wrinkling their surfaces in under a second after being stretched or electrically triggered.
That makes them invisible to infrared night vision tools or lets them modulate their temperatures.
"Basically, we have invented a soft material that can reflect heat in similar ways to how squid skin can reflect light. It goes from wrinkled and dull to smooth and shiny, essentially changing the way it reflects the heat," said corresponding author Alon Gorodetsky.
Made of sandwiched aluminium, plastic and sticky tape, the material transforms from a wrinkled grey to a glossy surface when it is either pulled manually or zapped with voltage.
"It was hard, especially the first phase when we were learning how to work with the sticky material," added lead author Chengyi Xu.
Potential uses of the material include better camouflage for troops and insulation for spacecraft, storage containers, emergency shelters, clinical care and building heating and cooling systems.