Home' Army News : September 13th 2012 Contents WHICH ONE
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Army September 13, 2012
MUCH like a chamele-
on altering its appear-
ance to avoid prey, ADF
vehicles could one day
change their camouflage to blend
into various environments.
New research is focused on the
development of electrochromic
materials that change colour with
subtle variation in applied voltage.
It now forms the basis of a new col-
laboration between Defence Science
and Technology Organisation
(DSTO) and the University of South
While an outcome is still some
years off, according to DSTO
researcher Vivienne Wheaton it
could be a great improvement on
the current all-purpose camouflage
paint pattern developed by DSTO.
"Historically, we have devel-
oped camouflage that works very
well against specific backgrounds.
However, backgrounds change,
obviously, by moving from one
location to the next -- and the ADF
can expect to deploy vehicles to a
wide variety of operational areas,"
Ms Wheaton said.
"Even if we stay in the same
position, the same scene can look
very different at different times of
the day, under different weather
conditions and throughout different
seasons. A camouflage scheme that
worked effectively in one instance
may be completely ineffective in
Densely coloured panels of
polymer film can change with-
in moments to a transparent grey.
Applying electricity to densely col-
oured panels of polymer film chang-
es the alignment of small particles
in the film to give a darker or lighter
"The panels are purchased
samples of electrochromic mate-
rial that can be deposited onto glass
or other polymer surfaces," Ms
"Applied voltages of less than
five volts will generally initiate col-
our changes in electrochromic mate-
rials, where the change is a result
of the chemical species switching
between oxidation states."
That poses a problem for future
implementation of this form of tech-
"It's important that modern cam-
ouflage covers most of the electro-
magnetic spectrum -- from visible
light, through infrared and radar
wavelengths, because battlefield
sensors exploit many different parts
of the spectrum," Ms Wheaton said.
In short, a military vehicle suita-
bly camouflaged to the naked eye is
potentially exposed to night vision,
thermal imaging or other modern
"A number of adaptive technolo-
gies are under development through-
out the world focusing on different
parts of the electromagnetic spec-
trum, but integrating them into a
multispectral solution is a significant
future challenge," Ms Wheaton said.
As this work is at a concept
stage, there are still many technical
challenges to surmount.
"If this technology were to be
developed to create an adaptive
camouflage system, ideally the
materials would be controlled so as
to respond automatically to changes
in the environment around them,"
Ms Wheaton said.
"That would require sensors,
integrated with the system, to sense
the environment and appropriate
signal processing to make enough
sense of the environment's stimu-
li, and effectively guide the colour
transition and pattern generation.
Most current implementations of
electrochromics use materials like
glass or shiny films that are not well
suited to a camouflage application
on military vehicles."
DSTO also has a related PhD
collaboration with the University
of South Australia to investigate
the science behind the panels, with
the aim of developing the concept
beyond the lab.
"The collaboration is examining
the challenge of developing electro-
chromics that can be packaged in a
more robust, field-ready way," Ms
Adapting to the future
could one day allow
vehicles to change
colour depending on
Making a change: New research being undertaken by DSTO's
Vivienne Wheaton, pictured inset, may allow future military vehicles
to adapt their camouflage patterns to different environments.
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