We're One Step Closer to a True Invisibility Cloak

Greg Tito

PR for Dungeons & Dragons
Sep 29, 2005
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We're One Step Closer to a True Invisibility Cloak



Science completely hides a 3D object for the first time.

Who doesn't love it when fantasy and science fiction tropes become a reality? Well, guess what, the invisibility cloak isn't just for Harry Potter and Star Trek anymore. Previous attempts at such a technology have relied on covering an object with a "metamaterial" [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/99264-Invisibility-Cloak-Might-Actually-Be-Possible] that would bend microwave light. The technique created an effect that rendered most object undetectable, but a new technique has emerged that accomplishes the same effect without the use of metamaterials. A group led by Dr. Rainwater at the University of Texas published a paper in the New Journal of Physics proving it is possible to tailor a free-standing cloak to render a 18 cm cylinder invisible.

"[The cylinder] is a real object standing in our lab, and it basically disappears," said the spokesperson for the group, Professor Andrea Alu.

The science of the experiment is a little hard to grasp, but I'll give it a whirl. Instead of covering the object with an actual "cloak" of metamaterial that bends light, the Texas teams devised a "shell" that has the exact opposite properties of the object. The shell cancels out the actual object so that it remains undetectable.

"We realize a shell that scatters [light] by itself, but the interesting point is that if you combine the shell with the object inside, the two counter out and the object becomes completely invisible," Alu said.

Don't go counting on buying an invisible car in 2020; there are still a lot of bugs to work out. The exact design of the "shell" would need to be different for each object, and the technique won't work with light in the visual spectrum, only on a microwave level. Still, there is a lot to be excited about using a "plasmonic" approach to cloaking technology.

"There is still a lot of work to do," Alu said. "Our goal was just to show this plasmonic technique can reduce scattering from an object in free space. But if I had to bet in five years what kind of cloaking technique might be used for applications, for practical purposes, then I would say plasmonic cloaking is a good bet."

Source: BBC [http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/14/1/013054/article]

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FalloutJack

Bah weep grah nah neep ninny bom
Nov 20, 2008
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Heeey...! Another step towards Ghost in the Shell world: Thermoptic Camouflage!
 

SnakeoilSage

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FalloutJack said:
Heeey...! Another step towards Ghost in the Shell world: Thermoptic Camouflage!
That you have to be nude for, YEAH!

This is pretty cool. I also saw a YouTube vid of tank armor that can disguise itself under night vision observation - changing its appearance to look like an SUV or become completely invisible.
 

weirdee

Swamp Weather Balloon Gas
Apr 11, 2011
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SnakeoilSage said:
FalloutJack said:
Heeey...! Another step towards Ghost in the Shell world: Thermoptic Camouflage!
That you have to be nude for, YEAH!
But isn't that the whole point of being invisible anyway?
 

Delock

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Mar 4, 2009
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The applications for this are both frightening and amazing... and not for the reasons you're thinking right now.
On another note, has anyone made any progress in the area of superpowers yet or was that jellyfish thing not followed up?

Also:
 

idodo35

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Jun 3, 2010
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wow lasers, moon satelment (promises at least) and now invicibility!
all those things just in 1 day!!!
 

NLS

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Zachary Amaranth said:
An invisible car would be a nightmare.
Instead of "Now where did I leave my car keys?" you would have "Now where did I leave my car?"
 

danirax

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Jan 11, 2011
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great one step close to invisible tanks,snipers and airplanes.... just imagine the horror of the idea that there is an invisible tank 3 foot/meter away from you, aiming at you...
 

ResonanceSD

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I love the fact you left out the bit where they mentioned that the object was still completely visible.

danirax said:
great one step close to invisible tanks,snipers and airplanes.... just imagine the horror of the idea that there is an invisible tank 3 foot/meter away from you, aiming at you...

Mirage tanks, anyone?
 

cookyy2k

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Aug 14, 2009
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I would point out however this only works for stationary objects, if the object moves you have Doppler effects to worry about and the shell won't produce an exact cancellation in that circumstance, also in the case of a car/person/tank the shape of the object changes through different functions so it would require the shell to move in the exact same manor. Plus there is the whole going from a few centimetre wavelengths to a few hundred nanometre wavelengths to worry about. Still it's progress.
 
Feb 13, 2008
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*Ahem*



Gentlemen?​

Light diffusion does sound the way to go though - it blocks the obvious problems of rendering the retina invisible - thus blinding someone.
 

The Lugz

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Apr 23, 2011
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a nice display of refractive science, you can use the same concept at home if you want to wow some friends

there's a very old science experiment where you put a glass into a tub of glycerol and because they both have the exact same refractive property's when you look through it you can no longer see the glass
it's just a unification of the transmitted light, or a lens that happens to have the same inverse refractive property's, you can see this here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNWCB_GoQA4

i know what your thinking, but it's completely legit i promise.

it's also possible to do this with more complex shapes, as-long as they have the same refractive index:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anJuZdL_vsw&feature=fvwp&NR=1

it would be amazing if we could apply this to any object, as the article seems to suggest
plasmonic cloaking could really revolutionise allot of sciences and technology's
and also be really really cool.
 

HobbesMkii

Hold Me Closer Tony Danza
Jun 7, 2008
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How, exactly, would cloaking make our lives better? In sci-fi, it's mostly used to spy and kill people. I can't think of a single moment in my life where I've said: "Gee, you know what would be better than me seeing that object? Not being able to see that object."
 

ResonanceSD

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The_root_of_all_evil said:
*Ahem*



Gentlemen?​

Light diffusion does sound the way to go though - it blocks the obvious problems of rendering the retina invisible - thus blinding someone.

What's the bet that he's got a cloak and dagger rather than a standard invis watch?