The search for the perfect invisibility cloak lumbers onward, but that lumbering is starting to pick up speed. We’re hearing more and more these days about metamaterials, the possibilities of time cloaking, and other such future-stuff.
By Becky Ferreira
Posted 01.13.2012 at 2:12 pm 44 Comments
The science of stealth has long been a matter of fading into already obscure environments—the night sky, say, or the deep sea. But engineers are now developing materials that could hide anything in plain sight. Instead of bending light inward, like water and glass do, these optical metamaterials bend it outward, guiding photons around an object like river water around a stone.
Staring at distant, faint objects to study the origins of the universe requires several layers of engineering skill and design trickery. The people at NASA are no strangers to this, having invented all sorts of new materials to improve telescopes and other observational tools.
BAE Systems's Adaptiv technology enables objects as big as tanks to completely vanish from view--when seen at night with an infrared sensor, admittedly, but that's still a major advantage. An Adaptiv-outfitted tank can change its thermal signature to look like anything from a big rock to a truck to nothing at all, fading into the background and becoming invisible.
A new acoustic invisibility cloak made of a plastic metamaterial makes objects invisible to sound waves, researchers say. It could be used to shield ships from sonar, or build better soundproof walls for concert halls and other spaces. We’ve seen this idea before, but now Duke University researchers have actually built it.
You didn't think the enthusiasm for hacking the Kinect to make it do variously useful and silly things was going to end after two weeks, did you? It's just going to get better, so let's recap with two of the coolest new hacks. One makes you invisible, and one gives you the power of a certain mustachioed plumber.
We're one step closer to the stuff of sci-fi and boy wizards. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have engineered a metamaterial with a refined 3-D structure that gives light a negative refraction index upon entering the material. Put another way, it bends light the opposite way one might expect, irrespective of the angle or polarization of incoming light waves. Put yet another way: We're getting closer to that invisibility cloak we've been looking for.
Invisibility cloaks continue to taunt us in 2010 with their promise of Harry Potter-style shenanigans. But New Scientist points to a new proposal that consists of silver-coated nanoparticles floating in water. Such nanoparticles would self-assemble into chains that are controllable by magnetic fields of different strengths, Chinese scientists say -- at least in theory.
Disaster film director Roland Emmerich must be quaking in his boots knowing that his movies may soon have to be a little less destructive. With the invention of an "invisibility cloak" for buildings, earthquake damage could be significantly minimized. Using a series of concentric rings in the foundation of a building, this "cloak" directs seismic waves around a building, rather than destructively against and through it.
Ouch, Harry Potter. Your new movie doesn't premiere for two months, yet real scientists are already one-upping you
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Cornell University both said last week they've designed invisibility cloaks that work in the visible-light spectrum. OK, so they're not big enough to cover a budding young wizard sneaking around at night, but hey, it's a step.
New materials developed at Berkeley bend light in unnatural -- almost supernatural -- ways
By Jaya Jiwatram
Posted 08.14.2008 at 1:31 pm 12 Comments
Ever wished you could have Harry Potter's invisibility cloak? Science, not magic, could make that a reality. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have created materials that have the potential to bend light and even redirect it around themselves, cloaking any object behind them. They are metamaterials, materials that gain unusual properties via their structures. While all materials found in nature have a positive refractive index, these man-made metamaterials have a negative one.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.