metamaterial masking moves toward practical application

24 02 2011

Via Rachel Courtland, New Scientist. Issue 2800

NOW you see it, now it looks like something else. Radar images might never be the same again, thanks to an illusion device that can change an object’s appearance. The technology could ultimately be used to hide military aircraft.

The device is part of a growing family of metamaterials – structures designed to steer light along curved paths. They have already been used to make objects appear invisible and to disguise a gap between two objects.

Wei Xiang Jiang and Tie Jun Cui’s team at Southeast University in Nanjing, China, have created a structure that changes the way radio waves interact with a copper cylinder so that it appears to be composed of another material altogether.

Copper conducts electricity well and reflects incoming radio waves, giving it a bright radar signature. To alter this behaviour, the team built a device made of 11 concentric rings of circuit boards etched with small metal-lined channels that prevent electromagnetic waves reflecting away. Instead, they guide the waves in a direction that the researchers choose specifically to make the hidden object appear to have different electrical properties.

Placed around a copper cylinder, the arrangement created the illusion that the cylinder was made of a dielectric, a class of materials including porcelain and glass that do not conduct electricity and are more transparent to radio waves.

"Electromagnetic cloak"

A similar waveguide that rendered small objects invisible was tested in 2009.

The illusion only worked when the cylinder was viewed from the side; what’s more, the imaginary object it generated was the same size as the original. Future designs would have to account for all three dimensions, and might produce an illusion quite different from the object they disguise.

“In principle, this technology could be used to make an illusion of an arbitrary shape and size,” says Cui, whose team created an electromagnetic “black hole” for light in 2009. Similar illusion devices could eventually be used for stealth technology: for example, to “convert the radar image of an aircraft into a flying bird”, Cui says.

The work, which will be published in Physical Review E, is still at an early stage, however. At 45 millimetres, the team’s illusion device is three times as wide as the cylinder it disguised. “Their device is still fairly bulky relative to the original object, so further work needs to be done before a real device can be deployed,” says John Pendry of Imperial College London.

Although invisibility devices were invented first, the illusion technology might win the race to be put to practical use. “It is easier to falsify something than to hide it,” Pendry says.

The team next plans to explore ways to design devices with more complex shapes.





metamaterials, laser resin and invisibility cloaks

6 08 2010

Metamaterials can bend light around objects to render them near-invisible, begins a recent report in New Scientist. But it is an imperfect, lossy process, meaning some light is absorbed on its way through the metamaterial, and therefore the object remains semi-visible.

Now a team of scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana have invented a light amplifying resin ‘sandwich filling’ which, when stimulated by a laser, creates gain in the electro-optical signal, restoring the ‘lost’ light. The “negative-index metamaterial” means that an object can now conceivably be made  invisible to specific wavelengths of light.

Previous metamaterials, utilising nanoholes in a carbon matrix, IIRC, were able to mask objects in the microwave end of  the electromagnetic spectrum, but visible light has until now been elusive.

A wearable device is still light years away (pardon the pun!), but military installations, ships and even armoured vehicles are most definitely foreseeable near-term applications for the invisibility treatment.

Watch this space. Not that you’ll see anything 😉





exclusive – government reveals strategy to camouflage national debt

1 04 2010

As seen in this morning’s FT. I’m a tad disappointed no-one from the media approached me for a subject matter expert comment on this. For instance, they forgot to mention mimetic resemblance, wherein a potentially dangerous thing (e.g. Quantitative Easing) pretends to be something harmless (i.e. charitable giving from a conjurer’s hat of magic money), like when the Canadian Freshwater Shark mimics a floating log in order to catch its favourite prey – lumberjacks. It’s a fishy business, government spin. Anyhow, my scanner isn’t working, so I took a photo of the article for posterity, and copied the content below (my italics added):

A secret Treasury memo leaked this morning reveals how the government intends to mask the enormity of our country’s crippling financial deficit, using classic subterfuge techniques commonly used by the military to disguise men and equipment.

The communiqué, issued from Chancellor Kevin Darling’s office, was addressed to Merkin King, governor of the Royal Bank of England.

It outlines steps – to be taken by spokespeople when issuing statements to the press about piscal policy – that are intended to obscure the size of the national debt, including:

• Dividing the deficit into sub-units, such as external and internal liability and short term and long term indebtedness, thus making the overall amount harder to perceive: this is similar to disruptive camouflage used by many animals to break up the contours and symmetry of their bodies or by soldiers to obscure the shapes of men, vehicles and aircraft.

Blending the debt against a background context of world insolvency, similar to camouflage colours and patterns employed by soldiers’ combat uniforms to match the environment.

• Diverting scrutiny away from the issue by focussing attention on the United States’ even more embarrassing monetary problems, known as misdirection by camouflage experts.

• Mentioning the amount of borrowing quickly and indistinctly whilst simultaneously coughing into a hand and waving at an imaginary friend across the road: another form of misdirection.

Pass this article on to all those you know – it’s time we call the politicians’ bluff and show them that they can’t pull the wool over our eyes!





multi terrain pattern camouflage for british armed forces

20 12 2009

In the last few days some military news sites, blogs and forums, and now the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, have been reporting on a surprising announcement from the British Ministry of Defence: A new camouflage pattern has been developed, to address the problem of operating in areas that include both arid or desert terrain and cultivated ground, such as that found in Afghanistan’s ‘green zone’ astride the Helmand River.

Why is this a surprise? Well, apart from the fact that Britain has used the iconic disruptive pattern (DPM), with minor changes, since the end of the 1960’s, and has always professed itself quite happy with it –  and the auxiliary desert DPM –  there is the suddenness of it! Even though the camouflage is being introduced to troops as an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR), as an example of bureaucratic camouflage (what the Russians call maskirovka), the development and trialling of this pattern has been textbook.

At the beginning of this year I was made aware that our special forces (UKSF) were looking for a multi-terrain pattern to use for their issued uniforms. They specifically wanted Crye Precision’s MultiCam® (which I understand they are permitted to wear and purchase  themselves from the manufacturer), but there was a barrier to domestic production presented by US restriction on the use of the licence. Other patterns, including Hyde Definition’s homegrown PenCott camouflage, were considered, but the colours and tonal gradations that characterise MultiCam® were what the UKSF valued above all in a design.

Crye's MultiCam® pattern

Crye's MultiCam® pattern

All seemed to go quiet, and UK Special Forces personnel continued to be seen in assorted uniforms and camo patterns, including MultiCam®. But while all this was going on, much fanfare and spectacle was created by the Personal Equipment and Common Operational Clothing (PECOC)  program, which, as this blog reported, looked all set to introduce a family of far less radical DPM derivatives in to service. The colours of temperate DPM would be changed slightly, the desert pattern would acquire a sparse overprint in a third, darker brown, and  new ‘intermediate’ multi-terrain DPM (with a four colour palette of 3 browns and a green that was vaguely similar to MultiCam®’s colours) would be introduced for use on personal load bearing equipment and helmet covers. Or so we all thought.

Hybrid PECOC intermediate camouflage pattern

Hybrid PECOC intermediate camouflage pattern

Evidently, a satisfactory solution to the UKSF’s needs was quietly found by having Crye secretly create a bespoke pattern for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Quite when it widened from UKSF to became an all-forces affair is unclear, as throughout the development and trials process there was no inkling of the new Crye Multi Terrain Pattern (MTP), outside of those with a need to know. Any mentions of a new digitally designed pattern or a DPM with MultiCam® colours were thought to refer to the PECOC program, which was running along a confusingly (conveniently?)  similar parallel track. Trials were conducted in the UK, Cyprus, Kenya, and Afghanistan, but were kept secret with confidentiality agreements (even the Official Secrets Act can be employed without too much creative thinking), intellectual property protection, and MoD royalty rights. Of course, we all sign the OSA when we join the military, but rumours of new developments always bubble to the surface before long. That little to nothing leaked out is testament to the stringency with which the rules were enforced, and the effectiveness of the MoD’s maskirovka campaign. I don’t know which units were involved in the trials, but it’s certainly easier to do this kind of thing with elite special operations troops who understand and value security. If they should be accidentally spotted wearing a new multi-terrain pattern while trialling it in the course of their normal duties, it can easily be explained away as MultiCam®, which no-one would think to question (at more than a few feet away it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between the two Crye designs anyhow).

Crye Multi-Terrain Pattern

Crye Multi-Terrain Pattern

The pattern itself looks exactly like you might imagine a hybrid between DPM and MultiCam® would. The unique Crye blends between colours are there, as well as their signature ‘bird-dropping’ blobs and streaks of very dark brown and extremely light grey. The shapes within the pattern, however, are very much more reminiscent of temperate DPM than the laterally-elongated woodland camouflage forms of classic MultiCam®. It’s a very pleasing design aesthetically, and promises to blend in various environments just as well as its American progenitor. And just like MultiCam®, it suffers when it comes to long-range disruption, as there just isn’t enough contrast in the pattern. Hopefully, that failing will be of minor significance in the tactical environment in which it will be used, besides which, it is generally becoming acknowledged (at long last) that 21st Century armies are not often going to be fighting from and within bits of dense woodland or across trackless desert plains, but will spend the majority of their time approaching, entering, attacking and defending rural or suburban areas, with their characteristically close engagement ranges. Any camo design that addresses the new paradigm gets my support.

The MT Pattern, on standard No.8 combat uniforms, body armour and personal load carrying equipment (PLCE), is due to be issued to troops rotating through Afghanistan next year with a wider roll-out to the rest of the military beginning the following year.

This wiki article on the British Army Rumour Service website explains the thinking behind multi-terrain patterns like MultiCam®. Contains language unsuitable for minors.





kitty kat cornershot camo

20 06 2009

I thought this was someone’s idea of a joke when I first saw it. But, no – the demonstrator in the video below is deadly earnest (not Deadly Ernest, the comic pro-wrestler from Manchester, UK, but instead, a very, very serious company man ).

Cornershot camo

Cornershot camo

Now, the Israeli Cornershot system is a useful ‘force multiplier’ for dismounted urban operations, but I guess that to those being observed  through its barrel mounted video system it is still obvious that a gun barrel is pointing at them from round the edge of a wall. Until someone came up with this unconventional idea…

Link

Thanks to F Gruenert/ICUS for the tip.





camouflage – the exhibition comes to Canada

11 06 2009

Anyone who got to see the Camouflage exhibition at the Imperial War Museum a couple of years ago will appreciate what a treat is in store for those able to make it to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa this summer. The IWM exhibition has travelled across the pond, and is set to inform and inspire new audiences young and old with its immersive display of concealment techniques, from their hand painted origins in the First World War through to the ultra-modern trend for uniforms designed and manufactured with the aid of sophisticated computer programs.

fashion meets function at the Canadian War Museum's camo exhibition

fashion meets function at the Canadian War Museum's camo exhibition

Follow the link to see more about Camouflage, the exhibition – from battlefield to catwalk.

Unfortunately the exhibition has no examples of the PenCott digital multi-environment camouflage, since the pattern was still being trialled when the Imperial War Museum originally presented the show. However, the two British camoufleurs who inspired Hyde Definition’s creative approach to the design of PenCott feature prominently in the Second World War gallery – Professor Hugh Cott, scientist; and artist Sir Roland Penrose. They offered solutions to the problem of concealment from two sources – that of zoological evolution and of visual psychology. At Hyde Definition we combined these points of view, and thus named the pattern in memory of Penrose and Cott: PenCott.

Camouflage is presented by the Canadian War Museum in partnership with the Imperial War Museum, from June 4, 2009 to January 3, 2010.





fangblenny fish found to fox foes

7 04 2009

A MASTER of disguise has been uncovered living in Australian waters.

Photo: Dr Karen Cheney

Photo: Dr Karen Cheney



The blue-striped fangblenny is the first fish found to be able to change its colour at will to mimic a variety of other fish.

Its repertoire of colour changes includes olive, orange, and black and electric blue, and it appears to use colour vision to achieve its incognito exploits, new research shows.

University of Queensland biologist, Karen Cheney, said that her examination of the little fish’s eyes showed they should be able to detect different hues. They also have a habit of curling their tail around to touch their head, so they can see their body. “It is possible that fangblennies can view some of their own colouration,” Dr Cheney said.

The only other creature known to be able to imitate other species is the mimic octopus, which alters its colour and shape to resemble lionfish, flatfish and sea snakes.

Dr Cheney and her colleagues had studied the habits of fangblennies on coral reefs in Australia and Indonesia. Their results are published in the journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society.

For food, fangblennies dart out and attack larger reef fish, nipping off tiny pieces of their fins, scales or mucus.

In olive mode they tend to hang out in shoals of similarly coloured damselfish, and in orange mode they mingle with yellow anthias.

“Their repertoire of disguises appears to prevent, or reduce detection by potential victims,” Dr Cheney said. “They may also escape from predators by hiding in a large shoal.”

Their most striking talent is to impersonate black-and-blue juvenile cleaner wrasse – fish that provide a cleaning service for other reef fish by picking parasites off their backs.

The researchers were surprised the fangblennies did not attack reef fish that came to have their parasites removed.

Dr Cheney said this probably helped maintain good relations with cleaner wrasse.

“Otherwise the cleaner fish could get aggressive and chase them away.”

She has found that when the fangblennies are removed from a shoal they can revert to what appears to be their default colour, brown, within a few minutes. Brown ones tended to hide away in holes in the reef, Dr Cheney said.

From an article by Deborah Smith, Science Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

March 3, 2009