Blue-Ringed Octopus Could Be Key To Sustainable Energy

Jan. 5, 2024
Discovery opens opportunities for future investigation within the context of traditional optoelectronic systems such as light-emitting diodes and solar cells.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, drew inspiration from the greater blue-ringed octopus to develop a technological platform with applications in military, medicine, robotics and sustainable energy. The octopus can rapidly change the size and color of its skin patterns for deception, camouflage and signaling. The bio-inspired creation, detailed in a recent study in Nature Communications, features a thin film with wrinkled blue rings resembling the octopus, sandwiched between transparent proton-conducting electrodes and an acrylic membrane. The team used designer nonacene-like molecules, known for their long-term stability and controllable optical properties, to fabricate the colored blue ring layer. 

The researchers, including senior co-author Alon Gorodetsky, UCI professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and co-lead author Preeta Pratakshya, highlight the potential for in silico design of other camouflage technologies based on the stimuli-responsive properties of the molecules used in the platform. 

“We are fascinated by the mechanisms underpinning the blue-ringed octopus’ ability to rapidly switch its skin markings between hidden and exposed states,” said Gorodetsky in a recent news release. “For this project, we worked to mimic the octopus’ natural abilities with devices from unique materials we synthesized in our laboratory, and the result is an octopus-inspired deception and signaling system that is straightforward to fabricate, functions for a long time when operated continuously, and can even repair itself when damaged.

“The photophysical robustness and general processability of our nonacene-like molecule – and presumably its variants – opens opportunities for future investigation of these compounds within the context of traditional optoelectronic systems such as light-emitting diodes and solar cells,” added Gorodetsky.

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