Researchers create 3-D invisibility cloak: study

Mar 18, 2010 By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID

European researchers have taken the world a step closer to fictional wizard Harry Potter's invisibility cape after they made an object disappear using a three-dimensional "cloak", a study published Thursday in the US-based journal Science showed.

From Grimm's fairy tales to Harry Potter, the cloak of invisibility has played a major role in fiction. Now scientists have taken a small but important new step toward making it reality.

Researchers at Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology report they were able to cloak a tiny bump in a layer of gold, preventing its detection at nearly visible infrared frequencies.

Their cloaking device also worked in three dimensions, while previously developed cloaks worked in two dimensions, lead researcher Tolga Ergin said.

The cloak is a structure of crystals with air spaces in between, sort of like a woodpile, that bends light, hiding the bump in the gold later beneath, the researchers reported in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science.

In this case, the bump was tiny, a mere 0.00004 inch high and 0.0005 inch across (100 microns x 30 microns), so that a magnifying lens was needed to see it.

"In principle, the cloak design is completely scalable; there is no limit to it," Ergin said. But, he added, developing a cloak to hide something takes a long time, "so cloaking larger items with that technology is not really feasible."

"Other fabrication techniques, though, might lead to larger cloaks," he added in an interview via e-mail.

The value of the finding, Ergin said, "is that we learn more about the concepts of transformation optics, and that we have made a first step in producing 3-D structures in that field."

"Invisibility cloaks are a beautiful and fascinating benchmark for the field of transformation optics, and it is very seldom that one can foretell what practical applications might arise out of a field of fundamental research," he added.

In earlier research, a team led by David Schurig at Duke University developed a way to cloak objects in two dimensions from microwaves. Like light and radar waves, microwaves usually bounce off objects, making them visible to instruments and creating a shadow that can be detected.

The new research led by Ergin used infrared waves, which are close to the spectrum of visible light.

In cloaking, special materials deflect radar, light or other waves around an object, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream. It differs from stealth technology, which does not make an aircraft invisible but reduces the cross-section available to radar, making it hard to track.

Ergin's research was supported by the German Research Council, the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the European Commission and the German Ministry for Education and Research.

Explore further: The hemihelix: Scientists discover a new shape using rubber bands (w/ video)

More information: Three-Dimensional Invisibility Cloak at Optical Wavelengths, Science, DOI:10.1126/science.1186351, www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1186351

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User comments : 6

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Jeswin
not rated yet Mar 18, 2010
Quantifying physics to bring fantasy to reality..
CreepyD
not rated yet Mar 19, 2010
It's funny, many years ago in sci-fi, this was always one of those tech's where you would think 'that will never be possible', but here we with a proof of concept that it is indeed possible.
What's next, warp drive? hehe
jordanmontreuil
5 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2010
I was going to complain about no picture, but you probably couldn't see it anyway.
jamesrm
5 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2010
I thought this was a science news site, the use of "Grimm's fairy tales" and "Harry Potter" should be replaced with Predator movies and Klingons/Romulans from Star Trek as the preferred pop-culture references, I had expected more from pysorg :)

Rgds
James
Truth
not rated yet Mar 21, 2010
I was going to complain about no picture, but you probably couldn't see it anyway.

Best quip I've read all day!
yoron
not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
Not that good journalism.
I agree. Physorg used to be better.

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