Predators beware: Thermal imaging camouflage is now a thing

A team of scientists from the American chemistry society have made a breakthrough that can make heat sources invisible to thermal imaging and it all comes thanks to that magical material, graphene.

The ability to seamlessly fit in with surroundings, or remain hidden, has long since been sought after and has obvious military applications. The introduction of thermal imaging and infrared cameras has made camouflage much harder. Thermal imaging can see things that are both hotter and colder than the ambient temperature, and that means pretty much every living thing or working machine.

Although many have tried to create thermal camouflage (think Arnie in Predator), the constantly alternating heat produced by sources has made attempts futile until now. This new graphene film can adapt to altering thermal radiation, hiding objects from thermal imaging cameras more effectively than ever before.

Graphene is a zero gap semiconductor that efficiently absorbs and emits infrared radiation. That’s interesting, but the opposite of what makes for good camouflage material.

However, leading researchers discovered that when a low voltage was passed through the graphene its optical properties were altered causing it to become more metallic in nature, a shiny material which reflects infrared radiation and is a weak emitter.

Inspired by the way cuttlefish blend into their surroundings, Coskun Kocabas, Professor in 2D Device Materials at Manchester University, explains:

“We are basically changing graphene into metal. One obvious application is of course camouflage, but the novelty in this is it is adaptive camouflage,”

The versatility of this new discovery isn’t just about avoiding detection. It could also be used to protect satellites in space through the use of adaptive heat shields.

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