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Brief Published: 14 Nov 2017

Octopus Skin Inspires Shape-Shifting Material

A team of researchers in the US have developed a 2D material that can transform into a complex 3D structure when inflated. It’s inspired by octopus skin – the sea creatures can create bumps and ridges on the surface of their skin as a form of camouflage.

Developed by researchers at Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania and the Marine Biological Laboratory, the material is made from silicone rubber embedded with a fibre mesh. The mesh – which is placed in ring formations – can pull the rubber into various shapes when inflated, changing the appearance and texture of the surface.

Initial testing has enabled the team to create a material that can take on the appearance of relatively simple forms, such as round stones and a bulbous succulent plant. However, they believe that more complex and delicate configurations could also be possible.

As in nature, the innovative material could be used to improve camouflage for military purposes and scientific research. The team also predict that it could find applications in architecture and the automotive industry, too – particularly if it can be developed to morph into a variety of forms.

For more insight into how dynamic and responsive materials are driving innovation across the consumer industries, see our Materials Focus report Shape-Shifting Materials. See Sci-Bio for further examples of scientific researchers and designers taking inspiration from natural phenomenon to create intelligent materials that blend our perceptions of natural and manmade.