Friday Squid Blogging: Research into Squid Skin
DoD awarded a $6M grant to study squid skin:
“Our internal nickname for this project is ‘squid skin,’ but it is really about fundamental research,” said Naomi Halas, a nano-optics pioneer at Rice and the principal investigator on the four-year grant. “Our deliverable is knowledge — the basic discoveries that will allow us to make materials that are observant, adaptive and responsive to their environment.”
Halas said the project was inspired by the groundbreaking work of grant co-investigator Roger Hanlon, a Woods Hole marine biologist who has spent more than three decades studying the class of animals called cephalopods that includes the squid, octopus and cuttlefish. One of Hanlon’s many discoveries is that cephalopod skins contain opsins, the same type of light-sensing proteins that function in eyes.
“The presence of opsin means they have some primitive vision sensor embedded in their skin,” Halas said. “So the questions we have are, ‘What can we, as engineers, learn from the way these animals perceive light and color? Do their brains play a part, or is this totally downloaded into the skin so it’s not using animal CPU time?”