A mug inspired by squid skin will keep your hands cool and your coffee hot

Engineers from the University of California are developing a method to mass-produce insulating material in a cost-effective way.


A new adaptable and economical insulating material.

The sea, and more specifically the biology of the squid, is the new source of inspiration for isolation technologies.

A group of engineers from the University of California have created a new “adaptive” insulating material by examining the particular skin of these molluscs.

It is an inexpensive solution capable of controlling heat dissipation through a mechanism similar to that used by squids to alter light transmission.

This is not the first time that these animals have served as a muse for the technological world.

Science has long tried to reproduce the special ability of cephalopods to selectively and reversibly activate the chromatophores of their skin.

They are cells containing pigments that produce different patterns of light by expanding and contracting. They allow squids to communicate with each other or camouflage their bodies in case of danger.

Emulating this approach, Professor Alon Gorodetsky and his team have created a conformable insulating material that controls infrared reflection.

The engineers describe the invention as a polymer film with reconfigurable metal structures; units can reversibly separate from each other and reassemble at different levels of stress.

The metal islands of our composite material lie next to each other at rest and spread apart when the material is stretched, allowing for controlled reflection and transmission of infrared light or heat dissipation. The mechanism is analogous to the expansion and contraction of the chromatophore in the skin of a squid, which alters the reflection and transmission of visible light.

Alon Gorodetsky

Not only is the approach itself exceptional, but also the team’s recipe for the product to be economically and environmentally sustainable. The researchers applied copper to an aluminum substrate, spraying it with multiple layers of polymer.

The mixed manufacturing strategy we’ve perfected in our lab is a real game-changer. We have been working with materials and adaptive systems inspired by cephalopods for years, but so far we have only been able to manufacture them on relatively small surfaces. Now we finally have a way to do this roll by roll in a factory.

Alon Gorodetsky

More information: www.nature.com (English text).

Via uci.edu

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