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Monday, October 20, 2008

Disappearing act: The invisibility cloak that will be ready in five years

By Daily Mail Reporter

An invisibility cloak just like the one Harry Potter used to creep out of Hogwarts could become a reality within five years.

But instead of using magic, researchers from Purdue University, Indiana are using 'nanotechnology' and 'metamaterials' along with Einstein’s theory of general relativity.


Invisibility cloaks will work by bending light around an object

It works by bending light around itself like the flow of water around a stone, which would make both the electromagnetic cloak and the object inside hidden.

'The whole idea behind metamaterials is to create materials designed and engineered out of artificial atoms, meta-atoms, which are smaller than the wavelengths of light itself,' Professor Vladminr Shalaev said.

In his study reported in the journal Science, Shalaev used an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke, like a round hairbrush, that would bend light around the object being cloaked inside.

These tiny needles decrease the refraction or distortion of the light to almost zero, rendering it invisible.


These two images (cloak off, top and cloak on, bottom) show how objects might be 'cloaked' by bending light around them to render them invisible.

'Whereas relativity demonstrates the curved nature of space and time, we are able to curve space for light, and we can design and engineer tiny devices to do this,' he said.

He added that as well as bending light they could do the opposite - concentrating light in one area.

The new technique could be used to create optical microscopes so powerful they would make DNA visible to the naked eye and superfast computer microchips.