Researchers from the National University of Singapore have invented a new method of camouflaging sensors to the point where they are considered invisible. Professor Qiu Cheng-Wei from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering was at the helm of a team that is slamming their flag down on the world's first "multifunctional camouflage shell" that is invisible in thermal and electric environments. This means that anything that produces heat or electricity while it operates can be "invisibility cloaked".
"We have designed a camouflage 'shell' that not only mimics surrounding thermal fields but also electric fields, both at the same time. The object under camouflage becomes truly invisible as its shape and position cannot be detected in terms of both thermal and electric images," said Cheng-Wei.
The military uses for this kind of technology would make quite a lengthy list. Cheng-Wei weighs in on the militarization of such a technology, he says, "This introduces a defence advantage, where the enemy cannot see the soldier, but the soldier can detect the enemy."
The shell could mask the heat signatures that would show up on any camera or sensor looking for heat signatures or signs of electrical behaviour or fields. The team utilized a thin copper shell that attempted to mask the several deviations and differences of heat and electricity.
"Our camouflaging shell will open up a new avenue for advanced sensing and security systems. Sensors which are used to monitor current and heat flow in strong voltage or high-temperature environments are easily damaged. Our camouflaging shell hence protects such sensors from the harsh environment and at the same time enhance the accuracy of the hidden sensor, as the shell will eliminate any distortion around the sensor. This attribute is significant in our study of other applications such as using the camouflaging shell on special mission fieldtrips. The team is working on developing multifunctional invisible sensors that have instantaneous stealth ability," Dr Qiu told PHYS.
The team of engineers used the camouflaging of chameleons as the natural inspiration for the project. Dr Qiu said, "The skin of a chameleon is made up of several layers of specialised cells containing various pigment while the outermost layer is transparent...Our team's invention can be seen as an improved 'skin' for the chameleon such that it will become invisible when it appears in front of thermal and electrical signal detectors."