Lots of us wish we had a way to wrap ourselves in a cloaking device or blanket that would hide us from the world. Whether you were a Star Trek fan in the 1960s or a Harry Potter fan, you’ve probably thought about how handy that would be. Well get ready, because scientists might be a step closer to inventing a type of invisibility cloak, thanks to researchers at Berkeley. They’re in the process of creating an ultra-thin material that can make some objects nearly invisible – if the light is just right:
For now, this cloak is exceedingly small and covers only an object about 1,300 square microns. But the device, described in the journal Science, offers a proof of concept that could potentially be scaled up in the future.
Previous invisibility cloaks tried to gently redirect the light around the object they were hiding – but this required using lots of material, making the cloaks far bulkier than the object they were trying to conceal.
“That is not practical,” said study coauthor Xiang Zhang, a materials scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “You have to carry a huge cloak around you.”
For this new device, however, the scientists instead decided to scatter the incoming light using a very thin metamaterial – a material whose physical structure, rather than its chemical composition, allow it to manipulate light.