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Developing camouflage that changes with its environment


Research may improve camouflage for military vehicles. This image has been digitally manipulated.

Defence researchers are examining new materials to improve camouflage protection for military vehicles.

Chief Defence Scientist Alex Zelinsky says a research program is focusing on developing electrochromic materials that change colour when different voltages are applied.

“Camouflage works very well against specific backgrounds, but the Australian Defence Force deploys its vehicles in a wide variety of operational areas,” Dr Zelinsky said.

“The same background can look very different, depending on the time of day, the weather and the time of year. A camouflage scheme that works effectively in one instance may be ineffective in another. We want to develop something that provides an extra level of protection for our men and women who are deployed.”

Experimentation at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) has included work with electro-active polymers and commercial materials such as ‘SPD-Smart Glass’ film.

SPD glass is a type of film containing randomly oriented microscopic particles which align to let light pass through when electrical voltage is applied but block light when no voltage is present.

Research is now progressing through collaboration with the University of South Australia, where DSTO is co-funding a PhD in electrochromic research.

The research aims to develop electrochromic materials that can be packaged in a robust, field-ready way to assist the ADF with adaptive camouflage systems.