Beyond the looking glass...

Beyond the looking glass

While the researchers can't promise delivery to a parallel universe or a school for wizards, books like Pullman's Dark Materials and JK Rowling's Harry Potter are steps closer to reality now that researchers in China have created the first tunable electromagnetic gateway.

The work, 'A simple route to a tunable electromagnetic gateway' is a further advance in the study of metamaterials, published today in the .

In the research paper, the researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Fudan University in Shanghai describe the concept of a "a gateway that can block but that allows the passage of other entities" like a "'hidden portal' as mentioned in fictions."

The gateway, which is now much closer to reality, uses transformation optics and an amplified scattering effect from an arrangement of ferrite materials called single-crystal yttrium-iron-garnet that force light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation in complicated directions to create a hidden portal.

Previous attempts at an electromagnetic gateway were hindered by their narrow bandwidth, only capturing a small range of visible light or other forms of electromagnetic radiation. This new configuration of metamaterials however can be manipulated to have optimum permittivity and permeability - able to insulate the electromagnetic field that encounters it with an appropriate magnetic reaction.

Because of the arrangement's response to magnetic fields it also has the added advantage of being tunable and can therefore be switched on and off remotely.

Dr Huanyang Chen from the Physics Department at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has commented, "In the frequency range in which the metamaterial possesses a negative refraction index, people standing outside the gateway would see something like a mirror. Whether it can block all visible light depends on whether one can make a metamaterial that has a negative refractive index from 300 to 800 nanometres."

Metamaterials, the area of physics research behind the possible creation of a real Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak, are exotic composite materials constructed at the atomic (rather than the usual chemical) level to produce materials with properties beyond those which appear naturally.

More information:

Source: Institute of Physics (news : web)

Explore further

An Invisible Cloak for Magnetism

Citation: Beyond the looking glass... (2009, August 13) retrieved 16 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Aug 13, 2009
This kind of technology has the potential to change people's day to day lives in ways they can't even imagine yet.

Aug 13, 2009
Could someone explain what this is? My understanding of the article is that the meta material can be used to create a 'virtual' mirror in area that it surrounds.

Aug 13, 2009
hey Mesafina -- what does that mean -- what would you hide ?? i mean is this so that you can have a pot plant in the living room and no one notice?? I mean really --- will i turn it on to hide the clutter of my desk at work??? maybe hide real mirros so I don't notice i never worked last years thanksgiving day meal.

Cloaking technology that make aeroplanes hard to see -- they turn into whiteish grey mirrors going around Moch 3 -- hard to see on ground radar but the kids love the show just by looking up.

This has military applications commerial -- ehh... I'd rather have something that has a use i can at least imagine how i might wanna use it.

maybe i am not creative

Aug 13, 2009
..In the frequency range in which the metamaterial possesses a negative refraction index, people standing outside the gateway would see something like a mirror..

Wake up people - this is just a reselling of the old idea of photonic crystals and another metamaterials.

Nature has such mirrors developed already on moth wings and bugs wing-cases and nothing wery new is about it.

I can admit, Chinese research is gaining its power in remarkable way - but in this case it's just a marketing of well known concepts under different name.


Aug 13, 2009
..metamaterial that has a negative refractive index from 300 to 800 nanometres..

This guy handles it too without tuning..

This one handles the mirror opacity tuning
Its mirror is sensitive to moisture, therefore bug has a transparent shield above it.

Aug 14, 2009
Isn't this a rehash of the 'invisibility cloak' hokum article from a couple of weeks ago? This is a fluff article - they haven't done it, just telling us what they would need to do so.

"All they would need" is a metamaterial they have no idea how to make yet. And what would it be like when it's done - a mirror. Wouldn't a real mirror be a lot less bother?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more