Posted by LisaJ
Now this is a super cool new Science story. Have you ever wanted to make yourself invisible? Ever said “man, I wish I could just run away or hide and make everyone go away”? Maybe as a young 8 year old, trying to hide from those bullies on the playground. Or perhaps you’d like to saunter into mass inconspicuously one Sunday morning to grab one of those delicious wafers without starting a riot. Well, if this sounds like you, then your lucky day is (almost) here. Dr. Xiang Zhang and his group from the University of California have reportedly “created a material that could render people and objects invisible”. They are announcing this week, in a pair of articles to be published in Nature and Science, their generation of a 3D metamaterial that exhibits a negative refractive index (thanks negentropyeater). ‘Metamaterials’ are apparently a manmade mixture of metal and ceramic or Teflon like materials (anyone who knows anything about this field is welcome to clarify this!) that function to bend visible light waves quite aptly. These researchers have harnessed this unusual property of the metamaterial they have created to redirect light around 3D objects to effectively disguise or ‘cloak’ them.
This new study represents a major progression in the field, as previously this technology could only be used to cloak very thin 2D objects. Now I’m assuming that the 3D objects they effectively made invisible in these studies were probably pretty small too, we’ll have to wait until the end of the week to find out, but this is a big step closer to allowing humans to obtain their own invisibility cloaks.
This article explains that this ‘new work moves scientists a step closer to hiding people and objects from visible light, which could have broad applications, including military ones. ‘ Which is a pretty cool application, I guess (but also a very frightening one when you think about it). I think it’s pretty obvious what the greatest potential of this new technology really is: to make millions of Harry Potter fans very, very happy. You make a real invisibility cloak and you’ve hit a goldmine with that fanbase.
Now I am by no means a mechanical engineer, materials scientist, or an expert in this particular field. So if anyone would like to add any additional info on how this technology works it would be much appreciated. It sounds very cool, and I’d like to learn more.