Smart Coatings: On Land and Sea
Picture a military vehicle such as the tank shown. To help disguise it, it is painted with colors that blend in with the surrounding landscape. Problem is, the vehicle might move to a different landscape during battle, leaving it more exposed.
So researchers in Australia have come up with a coating that changes colors to match the new environment within seconds. The concept imitates nature – for example, a chameleon’s ability to change colors to match its surroundings.
The way it works is a very thin coating is applied to the surface and surrounded by an electrolyte. When a current is applied, the color changes, based on the chemical structure of the polymer coating. The change is triggered by cameras that read the surroundings and tweak the camouflage to match.
But even cooler is the research going on in Russia to develop a submarine coating that captures sonar signals, processes and distorts them, then bounces them back making the sub more or less invisible.
The disadvantage so far seems to be low reliability. After each mission some of the coating has disappeared due to external impacts and has to be renewed.
I trust we’re working on the same thing, or even better, and also ways to overcome what the Russians are doing.
— Bob Flexner