What comes into mind when we think of space blankets? Definitely not squid skin. As the name suggests, space blankets were blankets to prevent heat loss and were first developed and used in space. It was eventually used for first aid and even in marathons because of its heat retention capabilities and lightweight. Its reflective aspect was also used for camping in the case people get lost. But how does squid skin come into the picture?
While space blankets have all these uses, the material only allows heat to be trapped within it. For the University of California, Irvine’s associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Alon Gorodetsky, this was a point of inspiration that brings science fiction into reality. Gorodetsky decided to take the camouflage ability of cephalopods and turn it into fabric that could manage temperature.
From camouflage to thermal regulation
Gorodetsky started his research in 2011, leading his team to study the skin structure of cephalopods and how it works. They found that the components in the skin help change color, allowing for a camouflage effect to happen.
His team mainly focused on studying the components for camouflage and renewable energy, but it also led him to the development of a new kind of material. The fabric utilizes infrared reflection, allowing heat to be retained just like a normal space blanket.
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The difference is that when the material is stretched, the material allows heat to escape because of the fabric’s structure. According to UCI graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering Erica Leung, the material has the same concept of the flattened disks found in cephalopods that were partially allowing these creatures to change color. With this discovery, Gorodetsky has found a way to apply the concept, allowing heat to be trapped in the material’s relaxed state and releasing it when it is stretched out.
How can we make use of that?
Currently, there is a possibility for the fabric to become a fully realized marketable product since Gorodetsky has been collaborating with Under Armor Inc. This could mean a new athletic line of clothes that can sufficiently regulate heat while working out.
Gorodetsky and his team continue to focus on finding practical uses for this discovery. According to him, this could “help people control their local temperature, which would let you use less energy for heating ventilation and air conditioning.” In the meantime, we’ll have to wait until we can have clothes that feel perfect for all seasons.
YouTube: Rising Tide – UCI Professor Alon Gorodetsky Turns Science Fiction into Reality
Photo credit: The feature image is owned by the University of California, Irvine. The photo “tentacles” has been taken by Antonella Lombardi.
Source: UCI News / Jackie Connor (UCI Applied Innovation News)