Squid cells could hold the key to technology that can make soldiers invisible

As world superpowers continue to race against each other in developing state-of-the-art military technology, researchers at the University of California said they are looking at the cells of the cephalopods like the squids, octopus and cuttlefish as the key to making soldiers undetectable, even by infrared.

Scientist from Irvine Research Center revealed they have found out means to develop “invisibility stickers” from the protein cells of the pencil squid. The stickers would enable ground troops to avoid detection by night visions.

“Soldiers wear uniforms with the familiar green and brown camouflage patterns to blend into foliage during the day, but under low light and at night, they’re still vulnerable to infrared detection,” assistant professor Alon Gorodetsky said.

 The chemical engineering and material sciences expert said his team has singled out iridoctytes; a specialized squid cells containing reflectin – a light-reflecting protein – as the potential principal element for such technology.

He added they have engineered E. coli bacteria to synthesize reflectin, which enables them to create the “invisibility stickers” by coating the protein onto a packing tape-like surface.

These stickers can then be used in many ways by soldiers to camouflage themselves, but essentially by putting them all over their bodies.

“You could look one way under optical visualization and another way under active infrared visualization,” he explained.

However, the “invisibility stickers” will not yet be ready for use in the combat zone as an “adaptive camouflage system” is yet to be developed. This means they have yet to work on making the stickers work and sync and respond to different infrared wavelengths.

The cephalopods are one of the world’s longest living organism and is believed to have survived the ocean for millions of years. This feat is attributed to their extraordinary ability of disguising themselves from their enemies.

“You can draw inspiration from natural systems that have been perfected over millions of years, giving us ideas we might never have been able to come up with otherwise,” Gorodetsky said.