Published On: Mon, Sep 21st, 2015

Now you see it – Now you don’t: An ultra-thin invisibility cloak


Researchers have made a small object disappear using an ultra-thin invisibility cloak, a new study reports. While the cloak has limitations, and is far from practical applications, it is much less bulky and more akin to a skin than previous designs.

In recent years, scientists have continued to chip away at advances to the invisibility cloak concept; however, existing designs have substantial limitations that render them unwieldy, unadaptable to different environments, or limited to cloaking only very tiny (microscopic) objects.

Development of metamaterials — those engineered to have properties not yet found in nature — has opened up doors to progress; because the surfaces of these materials have features smaller in size than a wavelength of light, they can reroute incoming light waves, steering them around or away from an object, the road to making it “invisible.”

ultrathin-invisibility-cloak-An ultra-thin invisibility cloak developed at UC Berkeley can wrap around objects of any shape and conceal them from sight (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Here, by carefully tailoring a reflective metasurface with small, light-scattering antennae that ensured the intensity of light scattered from the metasurface was close to that of light scattered from a flat mirror, Xingjie Ni and colleagues showed they could render a small object – 36 micrometers by 36 micrometers – undetectable.

Because of the way their cloak was designed, they say, it could even conceal objects with sharp edges and peaks, a feat historically challenging for invisibility cloak efforts. And unlike other attempts at an invisibility cloak, this new design is also scalable, the authors say.

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