May 14, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Cuttlefish Inspire Reflective Screens

“Cuttlefish are masters of disguise, able to change their skin color in less than a second to hide from predators or draw in prey for the kill,” begins an article on MSNBC News.  A team at MIT, fascinated with the physics of this capability, tried to imitate it.  They found they could electrically control the spacing of layers of material in an artificial screen and reflect a huge range of colors.  The tuning of the material is “fantastic,” said one researcher, offering a wide variety of potential applications, such as “Electronic ink applications, pressure sensors and advertising billboards,” the article said.
    For prior entries about cuttlefish, see 02/09/2005, 12/15/2006, 06/06/2007, and 12/18/2007.

Better living through biomimetics – the saga continues.  The cuttlefish actually has a superior design.  The human engineers are only imitating the basic physics of reflectivity of surfaces.  The cuttlefish has exquisite control of its reflecting elements, plus built-in maintenance, plus reproduction, plus feedback response from the environment.  If humans keep trying, they might approach the capabilities of the animals.  (Notice, however, that the animals are not attempting to mimic the science or philosophy of the humans, even if your dog is named Plato.)

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