Polymer camouflage technology could hide tanks in plain sight

Researchers from the University of South Australia's Future Industries Institute have developed adaptive camouflage cells for tanks in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Group.

The cells are made from conducting polymers wrapped in polycarbonate sheets that are able to change colour and patterns quickly on demand to closely match their surroundings and, furthermore, do not require constant power to maintain their pattern.

The chameleon-like technology was trialled on a tank this year at the Australian Defence Force’s Cultana training site near Adelaide. The findings of the trial will be presented at the Future Land Forces Conference in Adelaide on September 7.

Lead researcher Peter Murphy said: “We are out to make an armoured carrier or a tank as invisible to the human eye for as long as possible on the battlefield.”

The cells are constructed using a multilayer system where two sheets of glass or polycarbonate are used to form the cell. Conducting polymers are placed inside the polycarbonate casings and a small voltage is run through the cell. The voltage sent through the cell switches between positive and negative states enabling the cell to transition between different colour patterns.

According to prof Murphy the camouflage cells are able to change colour in less than a second but the rate of transition can be controlled to allow for a gradual transformation. He added that they could also run from a power source the size of a watch battery.

The cells are currently designed to be 10x10cm but the researchers are looking to increase the cells’ size to the size of an A4 sheet of paper as well as increase their flexibility while reducing thickness.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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