Scientists create 'invisibility cloak'

Scientists say they have built a Harry Potter-style 'cloak of invisibility' that can hide everyday objects by splitting light.

It's not quite up to the standard of the boy wizard's magic garment but it can make objects like pins and paper clips disappear from sight.

The 'cloak', made from calcite crystal, was the work of physicists from the University of Birmingham, Imperial College, London, and Technical University of Denmark.

The team, led by Dr Shuang Zhang, from Birmingham University's school of physics and astronomy, glued two triangular pieces of calcite together, placed on a mirror.

The light enters the calcite and splits into two rays of different polarisations travelling at different speeds and in different directions, making objects underneath the cloak invisible.

The researchers said the size of the cloaking area was limited only by the size of the crystal and their experiments might pave the way to devices which can hide much larger objects.

Dr Zhang said: "This is a huge step forward as, for the first time, the cloaking area is rendered at a size that is big enough for the observer to 'see' the invisible object with the naked eye.

"We believe that by using calcite, we can start to develop a cloak of significant size that will open avenues for future applications of cloaking devices."

The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications in a paper titled Macroscopic Invisibility Cloak of Visible Light.

Source - Orange News

Below is the post from Telegraph, on 04 Nov 2010 about this topic

Scientists create Harry Potter style 'invisibility cloak'

A new material that could be used to create a real-life Harry Potter-style "invisibility cloak" has been designed by British scientists.

The material, called "Metaflex" may in future provide a way of manufacturing fabrics that manipulate light.

Metamaterials have already been developed that bend and channel light to render objects invisible at longer wavelengths.

Visible light poses a greater challenge because its short wavelength means the metamaterial atoms have to be very small.

So far such small light-bending atoms have only been produced on flat, hard surfaces unsuitable for use in clothing.

But scientists at the University of St Andrews in Scotland believe they have overcome this problem.

They have produced flexible metamaterial "membranes" using a new technique that frees the meta-atoms from the hard surface they are constructed on.

Metaflex can operate at wavelengths of around 620 nanometres, within the visible light region.

Stacking the membranes together could produce a flexible "smart fabric" that may provide the basis of an invisibility cloak, the scientists believe. Other applications could include "superlenses" that are far more efficient than conventional lenses.

Describing their work in the New Journal of Physics, the researchers write: "Arguably, one of the most exciting applications of Metaflex is to fabricate three-dimensional flexible MMs (metamaterials) in the optical range, which can be achieved by stacking several Metaflex membranes on top of one another...

"These results confirm that it is possible to realise MMs on flexible substrates and operating in the visible regime, which we believe are ideal building blocks for future generations of three-dimensional flexible MMs at optical wavelengths."

Lead scientist Dr Andrea Di Falco said: "Metamaterials give us the ultimate handle on manipulating the behaviour of light."

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