Researchers from Bilkent University and Izmir Institute of Technology in Turkey, MIT and University of Manchester have developed a system that can reconfigure its thermal appearance to blend in with varying temperatures in a matter of seconds.
Previously, scientists have tried to develop thermal camouflage for various applications, but they have encountered problems such as slow response speed, lack of adaptability to different temperatures and the requirement for rigid materials. The team in this research wanted to develop a fast, rapidly adaptable and flexible material.
The researchers' new camouflage system contains a top electrode with layers of graphene and a bottom electrode made of a gold coating on heat-resistant nylon. Sandwiched between the electrodes is a membrane soaked with an ionic liquid, which contains positively and negatively charged ions. When a small voltage is applied, the ions travel into the graphene, reducing the emission of infrared radiation from the surface. The system is thin, light and easy to bend around objects.
The team showed that they could thermally camouflage a person's hand. They also could make the device thermally indistinguishable from its surroundings, in both warmer and cooler environments. The system could lead to new technologies for thermal camouflage and adaptive heat shields for satellites, the researchers say.