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Have you ever been up to no good one night, and suddenly got tracked down by a predator? Or, worse yet, the Predator? Or, more practically speaking, cops? Then you may have found yourself outmatched by said tracker’s liberal use of thermal vision. But thanks to some obviously Predator-averse researchers’ swank new wearable technology, your days of being thermally hunted could soon be over.
A team of researchers from the University of San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering recently figured out how to make wearable infrared camouflage that can hide away from night-vision goggles and other heat-detecting sensors.
Check it out in sped-up action:
Night-vision devices and the like would normally rely on human body temps being significantly greater than the surrounding nighttime air. But even in the cold of night, the infrared camo can hide the wearer’s body heat by calibrating itself to ambient temperatures in a flash. According to the university’s press release, it can take less than a minute for the material to go from 10 to 38 degrees Celsius (50 to 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit).
As temps outside fluctuate, the cutting-edge material can "create heating or cooling effects" utilizing "flexible electronics that can be embedded into clothing," per the release. "Sandwiched between stretchy elastomer sheets," the outer material is made of thermoelectric alloys that use battery-powered electricity to create a temperature difference.
Worry not, Predator runners with a cold streak — while the camouflage itself rapidly adjusts to ambient temps, inside it still manages to stay perfectly comfy, maintaining the same temperature as human skin.
To accomplish as much, the team utilized a "phase-changing material that’s similar to wax but with more complex properties," according to the release. "The melting point of the material is 30 degrees Celsius (roughly 86 degrees F), the same temperature as the surface temperature of human skin. If the temperature on the outside of the device is higher than that, the material will melt and stabilize, insulating the wearer; if colder, it will slowly solidify, still acting as an insulating layer."
We’re only in the early stages of development, as the team has only embedded the wireless device into enough material to create the world’s coolest wristband (sorry, Billy Idol, you lost that title). So at this proof-of-concept point, only your wrist would outrun the Predator.
The next step in scaling up is to make a jacket that hopefully performs just as well. Alas, currently working with the materials they've got, such a garment would weigh about 4.5 pounds, be roughly 5 millimeters thick, and only work for the better part of an hour.
So you may want to wait for the full suit before you start taunting Predators at night.