Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Adaptive Space Blanket Inspired By Squid

Engineers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a new type of adaptive space blanket. The blanket is able to regulate how much heat is trapped or released and is inspired by cephalopod skin. The skin of cephalopods, such as squid, cuttlefish, and octopuses, has the unique ability to change color. This change occurs when the skin cells, called chromatophores, change from tiny points to flattened disks. 

 

Alon Gorodetsky, UCI associate professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering, and Erica Leung, a UCI graduate student in that department, have invented a new material that can trap or release heat as desired.
Alon Gorodetsky, UCI associate professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering, and Erica Leung, a UCI graduate student in that department, have invented a new material that can trap or release heat as desired. Credit: University of California, Irvine

“We use a similar concept in our work, where we have a layer of these tiny metal ‘islands’ that border each other,” says Erica Leung, lead author and a graduate student in chemical & biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Irvine. “In the relaxed state, the islands are bunched together and the material reflects and traps heat, like a traditional Mylar space blanket. When the material is stretched, the islands spread apart, allowing infrared radiation to go through and heat to escape.”

 

From the University of California, Irvine article: "Gorodetsky said he has many more applications in mind for the novel material: as reflective inserts in buildings to provide an insulation layer that adapts to different environmental conditions; to fabricate tents that would be exceptionally good at keeping occupants comfortable outdoors; and to effectively manage the temperature of valuable electronic components.

Clothing would be a particularly fitting application for the new, bio-inspired material, according to Gorodetsky, who collaborates on research projects with counterparts at athletic apparel manufacturer Under Armour Inc.

Other benefits Leung mentioned include the material’s light weight, ease and low cost of manufacturing, and durability. She noted that it can be stretched and returned to its original state thousands of times."

 

Read more about the adaptive space blanket inspired by squid at University of California, Irvine