A group of scientists from the United States and Britain has successfully tested the world’s first invisibility cloak, almost completely hiding a copper cylinder so little more than a small shadow could be seen, the Associated Press reports via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The cloak still cannot yet hide people or objects as in science fiction, but the scientists involved say the idea is conceptually feasible, according to the AP.
The scientists employed microwaves—which reflect off matter like light or radar waves so that it’s possible to detect them and their shadows with the proper instruments—to test the cloak, the AP reports.
If an object can be “cloaked” from microwaves, it can also be hidden from radar, according to the AP, and the military implications of such a possibility are immense.
Stealth technology is currently used by military entities, but it doesn’t make an aircraft appear invisible; rather, it simply decreases the likelihood of radar detection by making it appear smaller and therefore more difficult to keep tabs on, the AP reports.
David Schurig, the cloak’s designer, told the AP in a phone interview that it is conceptually possible to modify the concept to function with visible light, and therein, it’s possible to cloak people and objects.
Roughly five months ago, Schurig and his team published research that stated the possibility of a functional invisibility cloak, and though this trial was performed in only two dimensions and did leave some traceable shadow, he said the next move is to switch to 3-D and leave no detectable shadow, according to the AP.
David R. Smith of Duke University, a co-author of the research report, told the AP, “We did this work very quickly … and that led to a cloak that is not optimal. We know how to make a much better one.”
The cloaking device is composed of metamaterials, or engineered combinations of metals and circuit board parts, which could contain ceramic or fiber composite material, according to the AP.
Smith compared the cloaking process to water flowing around a smooth rock—the radar or other waves simply pass along the hidden object without a trace, the AP reports.
“This first experiment has provided a confirmation that the mechanism of cloaking can be realized. We now just need to improve the performance of the cloaking structures,” Smith said, according to the AP.
Additional researchers from London’s Imperial College and Calif.-based technology firm SensorMetrix aided Schurig and Smith in their efforts, and support was provided by the Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program and the United Kingdom Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, the AP reports.
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