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Ian Gent

PhD Student

I am currently working on my PhD as part of the ACCIS Doctoral Training Centre (DTC), which is entitled “Biologically Inspired Adaptive Camouflage: Polyphenism-Colour Changing Smart Materials”. This involves understanding the science behind colour changing mechanisms in nature and the development of a low energy colour changing material for camouflage applications. This project aims to assess the feasibility of a biologically inspired polyphenic-colour changing smart material, focussed at the single unit-cell level.

Camouflage technology has been an active area of research and development since the beginning of the ’industrialised’ war. In this continually evolving field, the ability to mimic the surroundings not only greatly increases the safety of operational personnel, but can also provide a significant tactical advantage. However, theatres of war are rarely homogeneous. The British Army is now deploying Multi Terrain Pattern (MTP) in recognition that Helmand Province presents a range of operational terrains, with traditional woodland and desert variants of Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) only being effective in different subsets. There is an alternative to the current compromises in camouflage systems: adaptive camouflage. Several examples found in nature of adaptive camouflage exist; these range from the slow, monochromic colour change of the Pacific Tree Frog, to the fast and dramatic transitions of the cephalopods.

There is a growing need in engineering research and industry for structures and mechanisms that exhibit properties beyond conventional mechanical consideration, which this project seeks to address by considering the application of engineering materials to camouflage.

Prior to starting my PhD project I completed a taught year as part of the DTC, which brought me up to speed with engineering concepts and involved completion of modules in structures, materials and design & manufacture of composite materials. This year culminated in the design build and test of a composite structure working within a team and an individual 6 month research project; my project was entitled “Novel Bio-inspired Body Armour Developed through Additive Layer Manufacturing”. My undergraduate studies were completed at the University of Surrey, where I was awarded my MChem degree in June 2011.

Supervisor: Richard Trask

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