Shrinking device makes objects appear smaller than they are

May 31, 2011 by Lisa Zyga feature
(a) A real spoon in the real space enclosed by the shrinking device. (b) The illusion object (a smaller spoon) in the virtual space. (c) A photograph of the shrinking device. A unit cell is shown in the inset. Image credit: Jiang, et al. ©2011 American Institute of Physics

( -- By controlling how light bends around an object, researchers have built a shrinking device that makes objects appear smaller than they actually are. Although the original object does not actually shrink, the illusion of the smaller object is convincing enough to confuse viewers since the real size of the object cannot be perceived.

The team of engineers, led by Wei Xiang Jiang and Tie Jun Cui from Southeast University in Nanjing, China, has published their study on their shrinking device in a recent issue of .

“The shrinking device can shrink the size of an object virtually, so we named it a ‘shrinking device,’” Cui told “Such a device works at microwave frequencies and will confuse the radar or other electromagnetic detection equipment to make wrong decisions. Hence it may have potential applications in the military.”

The researchers built the shrinking device out of metamaterials, which are best known for their role in invisibility cloaks. When used in the field of transformation optics, metamaterials can bend light and control its path in desired ways.

Here, the researchers used to build eight concentric rings that are each 12 mm high. They then placed an arbitrary object, such as a spoon, in the center of the rings. When light waves propagate through the shrinking device, the wave fronts begin to bend and their wavelengths get compressed. When the light reaches the inner circular region, the wavelengths become decompressed. To an observer on the outside of the shrinking device, the manipulated light creates the illusion of a smaller object with the same shape as the real object.

“The device is designed by using transformation optics, which make the objects in the real space and virtual space look like the same,” said Cui. “In our design, the real object is a large one and the virtual object is a small one. With the help of shrinking device, the scattering field of the large object becomes the same as that of the small one.”

As the researchers explained, the shrinking device works somewhat like the beginnings of an invisible cloak since both devices involve shrinking the radius of the inner circular region. For the shrinking device, the radius of this space is always positive. But as the radius approaches zero, the shrinking device becomes a perfect invisibility cloak.

“An object can be made to appear arbitrarily small as desired,” said Cui.

The researchers demonstrated the shrinking performance both numerically and experimentally, and found that the experimental results agreed very well with the simulations. The results showed that the device had an overall “good shrinking performance,” with the illusion looking like an exact smaller version of the original object.

As the researchers noted, because some objects’ proportions depend on their sizes, the shrinking device could even generate virtual objects of small sizes that do not exist in nature.

In addition, the methods used here to design the shrinking device could be extended to design and realize other devices, such as devices that can change some of the other parameters of an .

Explore further: Invisibility cloak that generates virtual images gets closer to realization

More information: Wei Xiang Jiang, et al. “Shrinking an arbitrary object as one desires using metamaterials.” Applied Physics Letters 98, 204101 (2011). DOI:10.1063/1.3590203


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5 / 5 (4) May 31, 2011
The shrinking device can shrink the size of an object virtually, so we named it a shrinking device'

I call it a lens.
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
But what a lens!
not rated yet May 31, 2011
I wonder how they'll "skin" aircraft in this.

3 / 5 (2) May 31, 2011
An army of tiny troops, planes and tanks. Bwahahaha(and so forth)haha
not rated yet May 31, 2011
does it work the other way around so i can send my army of midgets appearing as a horde of goliaths to make the opponent run away in fear...

Seriously beside stealth you need something to project an extra 50 ghost targets on enemy radar so their missiles don't know on wich target to lock on
not rated yet May 31, 2011
Already being done husky. That's what radar jamming basically is.
not rated yet May 31, 2011
The shrinking device can shrink the size of an object virtually, so we named it a shrinking device'

I call it a lens.

What Kasen said...

Also, I'd use the word "image" as opposed to "virtual object", which implies way too much.
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
Sounds like the beginnings of the TARDIS.
not rated yet May 31, 2011
Yup. It's a lens.
not rated yet May 31, 2011
TARDIS. Time and relative dimension in space.
Love it.
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
Now they can do the reverse and make showgirls and the like with any size of boobs (or anything else) the viewers want..!
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
Geez, if they had just called before the spent all our Walmart money - I could have given them the wrong end of my binoculars to look through.
not rated yet May 31, 2011
I have a real shrinking devices, its called a fridge.
1 / 5 (3) May 31, 2011
I have one of these. Its label reads:

"WARNING: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

I have another one, and it works in both directions. I can make objects appear smaller, or bigger - depending on how I hold it. ...Binoculars!

Wait, here's another one ...a magnifying lens!

Oh! And another ...the bottom of my beer glass!

not rated yet May 31, 2011
Jokes aside, it's a pretty neat trick.. Shows how you can do all sorts of interesting things with light
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
"Does this dress make my butt look skinny?"
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
Sounds like the equivalent of a Fresnel lens, where those concentric rings can make a flat piece of plastic act like a convex lens.
not rated yet Jun 01, 2011
The shrinking device can shrink the size of an object virtually, so we named it a shrinking device'

I call it a lens.

You shouldn't.

A classical lens works only along it's optical axis. You have to look through it at the object.

This thing is omnidirectional (or can be rather). Can you imagine a lens which completely surrounds the object? So you can walk around it, look at it from all sides and it still works? Some lens indeed.

Plus there is an issue of distortions. Notice how they stress several times that the object appears the same, only smaller? Now recall to what lengths traditional optics has to go to get a high quality images... and all along a single axis only!
not rated yet Jun 02, 2011
I'm not saying this isn't a very neat technological achievement, just that the names these Chinese researchers come up with sort of oversell the thing. Remember the "black hole" they created last year?
not rated yet Jun 13, 2011
"metamaterials, which are best known for their role in invisibility cloaks"

Really? I guess we are increasingly living in a mass-media driven world.

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