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— Science

Metamaterials breakthrough could lead to the first wide-spectrum optical invisibility cloak

To make a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak requires that the materials from which it is made have a negative refractive index over all optical wavelengths, from red to violet. However, the artificially-structured optical materials from which cloaks are made thus far have been restricted to a very narrow range of optical wavelengths, limiting their ability to cloak over a range of colors. That obstacle to progress ends now, as a group of Stanford optical engineers at Stanford has succeeded in designing a broadband metamaterial that exhibits a negative refractive index over nearly the entire rainbow. Read More
— Health and Wellbeing

New techniques to make viral load tests cheaper, faster and portable

To monitor their infection levels, people carrying chronic viral infections such as hepatitis and HIV need to get their viral load regularly checked. This measures how many viruses are present in a certain volume of blood or bodily fluid with current tests being expensive and needing to be done through laboratories. However, newly developed optical techniques being developed by two independent teams at the University of California could deliver cheaper and faster viral load tests that could be carried out in a medical office, hospital or even in the field. Read More
— Architecture

Hiroshima's Optical Glass House constructed using 6,000 glass bricks

Architecture studio Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP has designed the “Optical Glass House” in Hiroshima, Japan, that aims to acoustically protect residents from the main road outside, whilst providing light and views for the residents within. The delicate glass blocks belie the structure and a complex casting process is employed to create the 13 ton (11.7 tonne) facade that shows-off the buildings tree-filled courtyard and looks like a shimmering waterfall to the outside world. Read More
— Space

High-tech imaging reveals atmospheric composition of multiple exoplanets

While the number of exoplanets so far identified is steadily marching towards the 1000 mark, fewer than twenty have been discovered in the course of direct observation by astronomical telescopes. Four of them (HR 8977 b,c,d,and e) circle an unprepossessing A5 star called HR 8977, which lies about 130 light-years distant from Earth. Thanks to the little-known astrophysics research arm of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), we now have the ability to examine the makeup of their atmospheres by taking simultaneous spectrographs of all four planets. Read More
— Electronics

New transparent, flat, flexible image sensor has potential for gesture control displays

A research team from the Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an image capturing device using a single sheet of polymer that is flat, flexible and transparent. The researchers say the new image sensor could eventually find its way into devices like digital cameras and medical scanners, and that it may help to usher in a new generation of gesture-controlled smartphones, tablets and TVs. Read More
— Good Thinking

Car mirror copies eyeglasses to eliminate blind spots

Usually when we hear the term “progressive optics” it’s in reference to bi- or trifocal glasses, that don’t have sharp lines between the different focal zones of the lenses. A group of scientists from Korea and the US, however, have recently used the technology to create something else – a prototype driver’s side car mirror that has no blind spot, yet that also doesn’t distort images in an unsafe manner. Read More
— Science

Nanofocusing device shrinks light beams

Engineers at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the University of California at Berkeley have developed a nanofocusing waveguide, a tiny passive plasmonic device which is capable of concentrating light onto a spot a few nanometers in size. In so doing, they have sidestepped the diffraction-limited nature of light, which normally prevents focusing light to a spot smaller than its own wavelength. This remarkable feat may lead to new optoelectronic applications in computing, communications, and imaging. Read More
— Science

Perfect optical absorber invented at Harvard University

Harvard Professor of Applied Physics Federico Capasso and his collaborators have invented a nearly perfect optical absorber. By coating a piece of sapphire with an exceedingly thin (180 nm) layer of vanadium dioxide (VO2), a surface is created that absorbs 99.75 percent of infrared light with a wavelength of 11.6 micron wavelength. Such optical absorbers can be tailored to enable a wide range of applications. Read More
— Science

Stanford researchers control light using synthetic magnetism

Left to its own ways, light will follow the same path through an optical system whether the system is being used as a camera lens or as a projector. This is called time-reversal symmetry, or reciprocity. As many new applications and methods would be enabled by access to a non-reciprocal optical system, it is unfortunate that they have been so difficult to come by. But now researchers at Stanford University have discovered how to make such non-reciprocal systems by generating an effective magnetic field for photons. Read More