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NUS Engineering Team develops camouflage shell for sensors

Adrian M. Reodique | July 7, 2016
The camouflage shell renders sensors invisible to both thermal and electric environments.

The team from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has created a camouflage shell that makes sensors invisible in thermal and electric fields.

"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 Assistant Professor Qiu Cheng-Wei who led the team.

According to Qiu, the team drew inspiration from a chameleon to develop the camouflaging shell. "The skin of a chameleon is made up of several layers of specialised cells containing various pigment while the outermost layer is transparent. The cells beneath the skin change colour based on light intensity and temperature as well as the chameleon's mood. 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 electric signal detectors!"

In their experiment, the team created an ideal invisible sensor by covering it with a thin shell made of pure copper. The shells are designed to reduce the perturbation of heat flux and current, simultaneously. With camouflage shell, the sensors could hide and continue to probe on the environment without being detected.

In addition, the shell is fabricated based on detailed calculations to manipulate the external multi-physical fields to insulate the sensor and render it invisible while still capable of receiving incoming signals from outside.

"Sensors which are used to monitor current and heat flow in strong voltage or high temperature environments are easily damaged. Our camouflaging shell hence protect 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 also working on developing multifunctional invisible sensors that have instantaneous stealth ability," explained Qiu.


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