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Flexible metamaterials the key to a working invisibility cloak?

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November 3, 2010

Scottish researchers are reporting a "practical breakthrough" that could lead to the development of that most sought after of wardrobe items – the invisibility cloak. The concept of the invisibility cloak (not pictured) is based around harnessing the unique electromagnetic wave-bending properties of metamaterials, but this poses problems when it comes to creating flexible surfaces suitable for applications like clothing and contact superlenses for visual prostheses... problems which the new material design known as "Metaflex" hopes to address.

Synthetic metamaterials have a property known as a "negative refractive index" which allows light and other electromagnetic waves to be bent in a very strange way and theoretically makes it possible for objects to be made invisible. These exotic materials are being investigated in a number of fields including sonar-cloaking mechanisms for ships and submarines and magnetic shielding, but things get a little trickier when it comes to visible light because the metamaterial must cater for visible light’s smaller wavelength and be able to attach to a flexible structure (like clothing).

The new material designed by researchers from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, addresses these issues by taking meta-atoms (which make up the metamaterial) and stacking them together.

Previously meta-atoms have been designed for flat, hard surfaces (like the skin of a submarine), but using this new structure, the researchers predict that an independent, flexible material can be created.

“Metamaterials give us the ultimate handle on manipulating the behavior of light," says research team leader Dr Andrea Di Falco. "The impact of our new material Meta-flex is ubiquitous. It could be possible to use Meta-flex for creating smart fabrics and, in the paper, we show how easy it is to place Meta-flex on disposable contact lenses, showing how flexible superlenses could be used for visual prostheses.”

It all sounds like science fiction right now, but there could come a day when you'll be snapping up last seasons' invisibility cloaks on the sale rack outside Macy's.

The research is being published this week in the New Journal of Physics (co-owned by the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society).

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007.   All articles by Noel McKeegan
4 Comments

"...he invisibility cloak. The concept of the invisibility cloak (not pictured) is based around harnessing the unique electromagnetic wave-bending properties of metamaterials....."

But: how could you even imAGINE photographing an 'invisibility' cloak ??

it must boggle the mind ...

tkj
4th November, 2010 @ 06:39 am PDT

haaaaahahaha sorry but invisibility cloak has been invented by Japanese scientists, rather then Scottish. And was stolen from Japanese by US military, it's a well known fact they steel everything from them, i.e.all the technologies. And it's been done few years back, whatever you guys say here is not a news anymore at least regarding that topic.

Kirill Belousov
4th November, 2010 @ 08:32 am PDT

If wearable invisibility cloaks ever become feasible, their use and availability will be strictly controlled.

@Kirill Belousov: the 'invisibility' cloak you are referring to uses a camera to photograph the scene behind the wearer and a projector to project the images onto the wearer. Neither the camera or the projector are contained within the 'invisibility cloak' and it only works from one angle. This isn't so much an invisibility cloak as it is a PR stunt, and apparently you have fallen for it hook line & sinker. This article refers to a new material that bypasses the need for a camera and projector; the material itself acts in a way that makes it invisible.

Facebook User
4th November, 2010 @ 05:36 pm PDT

@Facebook User.. Checkout this invisibility cloak.. no camera and projector required. Posted almost 2 years ago.

http://www.popsci.com/archive-viewer?id=0zsEAAAAMBAJ&pg=50&query=invisibility cloak

TMJDOC
11th November, 2010 @ 01:58 pm PST
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